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Full text of "An English woman-sergeant in the Serbian Army"



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Presented to the 

URKARYofthe 

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO 

by 
HARRY SUTHERLAND 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2007 with funding from 

IVIicrosoft Corporation 



http://www.archive.org/details/englishvvomansergOOsanduoft 




COLONEL MILITCH, COMMANDANT OF THE SECOND REGIMENT (ON 

THE LEFT) AND HIS CHIEF OF STAFF ; WITH THE 

REGIMENTAL FLAG 



V .:.j,:.,. 



An English 
Woman-Sergeant 

in the 

Serbian Army 



BY 

FLORA SANDES 



With an Introduction by 

SLAVKO Y. GROUITCH 

Secretaire-General of the Serbian Ministry of 
Foreign Jffairs 



HODDER AND STOUGHTON 
LONDON, NEW YORK, TORONTO 



\b H 




INTRODUCTION 



Innumerable have been the manifesta- 
tions of sympathy, generosity, and of the 
sincere desire to help Serbia given by the 
British people to their little Ally since the 
very beginning of the War. No words 
could ever express the deep gratitude of 
the Serbian Nation for the splendid ser- 
vices rendered by the many British Medical 
Missions, whose staffs, men and women, 
have nursed the sick and wounded with- 
out a thought for the hardships and 
dangers to which they have been person- 
ally exposed, and which, especially during 
the typhus epidemic and, later on, during 
the Great Retreat, were very serious 
indeed. British women have played a 



vi INTRODUCTION 

most prominent part in this humanitarian 
work of charity and mercy, and some of 
them have even given their lives for the 
Cause. 

When the history of their splendid 
achievements is written — as I hope will be 
done some day— the name of Miss Flora 
Sandes will certainly figure in it with a 
special acknowledgment. In the interest- 
ing pages which follow she will herself 
give a vivid description of her experiences 
during the Retreat in the ranks of the 
Serbian Army, in which, I believe, she 
was the only foreign woman allowed to 
serve in a fighting capacity. That in itself 
speaks very highly of the esteem and 
confidence in which she is held in Serbia. 
But she only took to a rifle when there was 
no more nursing to be done, as, owing to 



INTRODUCTION vii 

the Army retreating, the wounded could 
not be picked up and had to be left behind. 
Before that she had worked in Serbia for 
eighteen months as a voluntary nurse, 
practically without interruption, having 
left the country but twice, and that on a 
short visit to London to collect funds and 
bring back with her dressings and other 
hospital supplies which were badly wanted. 
During the typhus epidemic she volun- 
teered to go to Valjevo, which was the 
centre of the disease and where eight 
Serbian doctors and many nurses had 
already succumbed. The same fate very 
nearly overtook her, but fortunately she 
recovered and resumed immediately her 
self-imposed duty. 

Such examples of self-sacrifice, added to 
so many others given by British men and 



viii f" INTRODUCTION 



I 



women in Serbia, have implanted in the 
hearts of the Serbians a deep love and 
admiration for Great Britain, who may 
well be proud of such sons and daughters. 



SLAVKO Y. GROUITCH, 

Secretaire-General of the 
Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER I 

PAGE 

Rejoining the Serbians, November, 1915 — 

The Second Regimental Ambulance 1 



CHAPTER II 

A Serbian Ambulance at Work — We Start 

to Retreat ..... 22 

CHAPTER III 

A Ride to Kalabac and a Battle in the 

Snow 46 

CHAPTER IV 

I Meet the Fourth Company — A Cold 

Night Ride 77 

CHAPTER V 

We Say Good-bye to Serbia and take to 

the Albanian Mountains . . .104 
ix 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER VI 

PAGE 

Fighting on Mount Chukus . . .126 



CHAPTER VII 

Elbasan — We push on towards the 

Coast 148 



CHAPTER VIII 

Serbian Christmas Day at Durazzo — 

Aeroplane Raids .... 170 



CHAPTER IX 
We Go to Corfu 192 

S^ CHAPTER X 

The " Slava Day " of the Second Regi- 
ment 230 



CHAPTER I 



REJOINING THE SERBIANS, NOVEMBER, 1915— 
THE SECOND REGIMENTAL AMBULANCE 

Events moved so rapidly in Serbia after 
the Bulgarians declared war that when I 
reached Salonica last winter I found it 
full of nurses and doctors who had been 
home on leave and who had gone out there 
to rejoin their various British hospital 
units, only to find themselves unable to 
get up into the country. 

I had been home for a holiday after 
working in Serbian hospitals since the 
very beginning of the war, but when 
things began to look so serious again I 



2 REJOINING THE SERBIANS 

hurried back to Serbia. We had rather 
an eventful voyage, as the French boat 
I was on was carrying ammunition as 
well as passengers, and the submarines 
seemed to make a dead set at us. At 
Malta we were held up for three days, 
waiting for the coast to clear. The third 
night I had been dining ashore, and on 
getting back to the boat, about eleven, 
found the military police in charge, and 
the ship and all the passengers being 
searched for a spy and some missing 
documents. We were not allowed to go 
down to our cabins until they had been 
thoroughly ransacked, but as nothing in- 
criminating was found we eventually pro- 
ceeded on our way, with a torpedo- 
destroyer on either side of us as an escort. 
The boats were always slung out in 



REJOINING THE SERBIANS 3 

readiness, and we were cautioned never 
to lose sight of our life-belts. We had to 
put in again at Piraeus, and again at 
Lemnos for a few days, so that it was 
November 3rd before we finally reached 
Salonica — having taken fourteen days 
from. Marseilles — only to find that the 
railway line had been cut, and there wa& 
no possible way of getting up into Serbia. 
My intention had been to go back into 
my old Serbian hospital at Valjevo ta 
work under the Serbian Red Cross as I 
did before ; that was out of the question 
now, of course, as Valjevo was already in 
the hands of the Austrians, but I thought 
I might get up to Nish and get my orders 
from the President of the Serbian Red 
Cross there. I inquired from a Serbian 
officer staying at the hotel, who had just 



4 REJOINING THE SERBIANS 

ridden down from Prisren, if it would be 
possible to ride up into Serbia, but he 
most strongly discouraged all idea of 
riding, saying that with every facility at 
his disposal, and relays of fresh horses 
all along the route, it had taken him ten 
days to ride from Prisren to Salonica, and 
that during that time he had frequently 
been unable to obtain food either for 
himself or his horses ; that, furthermore, 
it was very dangerous even with an escort, 
as part of the way was through hostile 
Albania, and that all the horses were 
needed for the Arrny. I gave up that 
idea, therefore, and set to work to find out 
where I could come into touch with the 
Serbians, and finally foimd I could go to 
Monastir, or, to call it by its Serbian 
name, Bitol. Accordingly, I, with four 



REJOINING THE SERBIANS 5 

other nurses and a doctor whose acquaint- 
ance I had made on the boat, who also found 
themselves unable to reach their original 
destinations, left for Bitol the next day. 

Arrived at Bitol, I at once made in- 
quiries about the next step farther, and 
found that Prilip, about twenty-five miles 
farther on, was still in the hands of the 
Serbians, though its evacuation was ex- 
pected any minute, and even now the 
road from Bitol to Prilip was not con- 
sidered safe on account of marauding 
Bulgarian comitadjes, or irregulars. How- 
ever, the English Consul had to go out 
there, and he said he would take us with 
him to see how the land lay, and whether 
we were needed in the hospital there. 

I spent the afternoon prowling round 
Bitol, mostly in the Turkish quarter. 



6 REJOINING THE SERBIANS 

The next day we went with the Consul 
to Prilip — though up to the last moment 
I was afraid we should not go, as there 
was so much talk about the road not 
being safe — some of us in the touring car 
and the rest in a motor-lorry, with an 
escort of Serbian soldiers, all armed to the 
teeth. I took my camp bed and blankets 
with me, on the off chance of being able 
to stay at Prilip, as I was gradually edging 
my way up to the Front, leaving the rest 
of my baggage in Bitol to be sent after me. 
We got there without any mishap, keeping 
a sharp look-out for Bulgarian patrols. 
We found a Serbian military hospital at 
Prilip, and I asked the Upravnik or 
Director if I might stay and work there, 
to which he consented, but added that he 
was afraid that it would not be for long. 



REJOINING THE SERBIANS 7 

as they were expecting to have to fly 
before the Bulgarians any day. I ac- 
cordingly got a room at the hotel, and the 
Consul left me an orderly to look after me,, 
named Joe, who could speak a little 
English. I was very pleased at getting 
into a Serbian hospital again in spite of 
all difficulties, as the opinion in Salonica 
seemed to be that it was impossible ; 
but I must say I felt rather lost when 
the cars went back that evening and I was- 
left alone, the only Englishwoman in Prilip. 

The first thing I did was to turn all the 
furniture, including the bed, out of the 
room in the tenth-rate pub., which was. 
the best hotel that Prilip boasted, and 
made Joe scrub the floor and put in my 
own camp bed. 

I take the following extract out of my 

B2 



8 REJOINING THE SERBIANS 

diary, written on my first night in 
Prilip : 

''Monday, 8th, 8.30 p.m.— I am sitting 
up in bed in my sleeping sack, writing this 

in a very small room in S Hotel, 

Prilip. The room contains (besides my 
camp bed) a rickety chair, and a small 
table with my little rubber basin, a cracked 
mirror and my faithful tea-basket. From 
the cafe below comes a deafening chorus 
of Serbian soldiers. I am glad there is a 
good lock on the door, as someone is 
making a violent effort to come in, and 
from the fierce altercation going on be- 
tween him and the boy-chambermaid, 
scraps of which I can understand, he is 
apparently under the impression that I have 
taken his room — I may have for all I know, 
but anyhow the proprietor gave it to me. 



I 



REJOINING THE SERBIANS 9 

" The view from my window is not 
calculated to inspire confidence either. It 
looks on to a stableyard full of pigs, 
donkeys and the most villainous-looking 
Turks squatting about at their supper. 
These, I tell myself, are the ones who will 
come in and cut my throat if Prilip is 
taken to-night, as I don't think any 
responsible person in the town knows I 
am here. However, if I live through the 
night things will probably look more 
cheery in the morning." 

In the middle of the night I was 
awakened by another fearful racket in 
the passage. " That's done it," I thought, 
sitting up in bed with my electric torch 
in one hand and my service revolver in 
the other, " it's like my rotten luck that 
the Bulgars should pitch on to-night to 



10 REJOINING THE SERBIANS 

•come in and sack the town." However, 
s. very few minutes convinced me that it 
was only two drunks coming up to bed, 
^nd, telling myself not to be more of a fool 
than nature intended, I turned over and 
went to sleep again. 

I think my morbid reflections must 
have been brought on by the supper I 
had had. Joe, my orderly, had, for reasons 
best known to himself, taken me to a 
different restaurant to the one where we 
had been to lunch with the Consul, assur- 
ing me that it was much better ; it was 
not, very much worse, in fact, though I 
should not have thought such a thing 
could be possible. It was full of soldiers 
and comitadjes drinking. At first I could 
get no food at all, and when it did come it 
was uneatable. I had supper with an 



REJOINING THE SERBIANS 11 

American doctor I met in the town next 
night, and he informed me that food was 
so scarce and dear in Prihp that to get 
anything of a meal you had to have 
your meat in one restaurant, your pota- 
toes in another, and your coffee in a 
third ! 

Next morning I went round to the 
hospital, and in the afternoon one of the 
doctors took me round and introduced 
me to the Serbian Chief of Police, who 
was most friendly and polite, got me a 
nice little room close to the hospital, and 
apologised for not being able to ask me 
to come to his house as his guest as his 
wife was ill. This is the sort of courtesy 
that has always been extended to me in 
Serbia ; they think the best of everything 
they can offer is not too good for the 



12 REJOINING THE SERBIANS 

stranger within their gates, and I began 
to feel much cheered up. 

There were not very many wounded in 
the hospital, but a great many sick, and 
dysentery cases beginning to come in 
rapidly. I was soon quite at home there, 
being used to the ways of Serbian hospi- 
tals. The Director was going to Bitol for 
a few days, and I asked him to ask the 
head of the Sanitary Department there, 
Dr. Nikotitch, if I might join a regimental 
ambulance as nurse, as I heard that the 
ambulance of the Second Regiment was 
some miles farther up the road, just 
behind the Front. The Second and Four- 
teenth Regiments were then holding the 
Baboona Pass, a very strongly fortified 
position in the mountains, against the 
Bulgarians. 



REJOINING THE SERBIANS 13 

I stayed about a week in the hospital ; 
there was plenty of work to do — in fact, 
to have done it properly there would have 
been enough for a dozen nurses, as dysen- 
tery was rapidly becoming an epidemic, 
and the hospital was soon full up ; we 
could take in no more. We were fear- 
fully short of everything, beds, bedding, 
drugs, and we simply had to do the best 
we could with practically no kind of 
hospital appliances. Any kind of proper 
nursing was impossible, most of the 
patients lying on the floor in their muddy, 
trench- stained uniforms. 

One afternoon two of the doctors 
motored out to the ambulance of the 
Second Regiment and took me with them. 
We stopped first at the ambulance of the 
Fourteenth, where we found twenty 



14 REJOINING THE SERBIANS 

unfortunate dysentery cases lying on the 
bare ground in two ragged tents groaning. 
We had a long chat with the doctor of 
the Second Regimental ambulance, and 
had coffee and cigarettes in his room — a 
loft over the stable. That is to say, I 
did not do much of the talking as he was 
a Greek, and besides his own language 
only talked Turkish and not very fluent 
Serbian, although later on, strange to say, 
when I joined the same ambulance, we 
used to carry on long conversations 
together in a kind of mongrel lingo very 
largely helped out by signs. 

We visited a large empty barracks on 
our way back, and made arrangements 
for it to be turned into a dysentery hos- 
pital, as this disease was beginning to 
assume serious proportions, and our 




FRENCH STEAMER WITH BOATS SLUNG OUT 
READY AND ESCORT 

Page 2 




AMBULANCE OF SECOND REGIMENT. OX WAGGONS WHICH 
HAVE JUST BROUGHT IN WOUNDED 

Page 15 



REJOINING THE SERBIANS 15 

hospital was full up. This was never 
carried out, however, owing to the Bul- 
garians' rapid advance a few days later. 

The next day the Director came back, 
and brought with him papers whereby I 
was officially attached to the ambulance 
of the Second Regiment ; and it was part 
of my extraordinary luck to have just hit 
on this particular regiment, which is ac- 
knowledged to be the finest in the Serbian 
Army. Everybody was extremely kind to 
me in the hospital, and all the doctors 
asked me to stay there and work, saying I 
could have no idea of the hardships of 
ambulance life; but as I knew that it 
would not be many days before we all 
had to clear out of Prilip before the 
advancing Bulgarians, and that would 
mean my going back to Salonica, and 



16 REJOINING THE SERBIANS 

losing all chance of staying with the 
Serbians (whom I had grown thoroughly 
attached to in my work among them for 
the last year and a half), I adhered to my 
resolution to throw in my lot with the 
Army. 

I always had my meals at the hospital 
now, and we had quite a merry supper 
that night, and they all drank my health, 
declaring they would see me back in three 
days, when I had been frozen out of my 
small tent on the hills, where it was already 
bitterly cold. The next afternoon I went 
all round the hospital and said good-bye 
to everyone ; I was very sorry to leave 
my patients, they are so affectionate, and 
always so grateful for anything one does 
for them. One young soldier was my 
special pet; he had been driven mad 



REJOINING THE SERBIANS 17 



from the shock of a shell bursting close 
to him, though he was not wounded. He 
was such a nice gentle lad, and I used to 
spend a good bit of time with him, coaxing 
him to swallow spoonfuls of milk, as he 
would not take anything from anyone 
else, though the Bolnichars — hospital 
orderlies — were very kind to him. I heard 
afterwards that he lived till the hospital 
was evacuated, but died at Bitol. A 
good many of the men were from the 
Second Regiment, and when they heard 
I was going to their ambulance we only 
said au revoir. They assured me we 
should meet again when they were sent 
back to their regiment, as they would 
come and see me directly they had the 
smallest pain. 

It was rather late in the day when Joe 



18 REJOINING THE SERBIANS 

and I finally set out in a very rickety 
carriage commandeered by martial law, 
with a very unwilling driver, and a horse 
that could hardly crawl. The harness, 
which was tied up with bits of string, kept 
coming to pieces, and the driver kept 
stopping to repair it. Joe began to look 
very uneasy, and kept peering round in 
the gathering dusk for any signs of wander- 
ing Bulgarian patrols, or comitadjes, as it 
was a very lonely road. At last, after 
what seemed an interminable time, we 
arrived at the ambulance, which was on 
the grass by the side of the road. They 
were not expecting me then as it was late, 
and the Serbians turn in soon after sun- 
set. There was apparently nowhere to 
sleep and nothing to eat. One of them 
took us round to the doctor's quarters. 



REJOINING THE SERBIANS 19 

the same loft I had visited a few days 
before, not far from the ambulance. He 
turned out full of apologies, and said that 
he had had notice that I was coming that 
day, but that as it was so late he had 
given me up. 

It seemed a bit of a problem where 
I was to sleep, but eventually some 
of the soldiers turned out of one of 
their small bivouac tents. These tents 
are only a sort of little lean-to's, which you 
crawl into, just the height of a rifle, two 
of which can be used instead of poles. 
You seem a bit cramped at first, but after 
I had lived in one for a couple of months 
I did not notice it. All the tents were 
bunched up together, touching each other, 
with four soldiers, or hospital orderlies, 
in each. I insisted, to their great surprise, 



20 REJOINING THE SERBIANS 

in having mine moved to a clean spot 
about fifteen yards away from the others, 
and some more or less clean hay put in to 
lie upon. There was a good deal of ex- 
citement and confusion, the whole camp 
turning out and assisting. They could 
not imagine why I wanted it moved, and 
declared that the Bulgarian comitadjes 
would come down in the night and cut my 
throat before the sentry knew they were 
there. Afterwards, when I was more used 
to war, and accustomed to sleeping in the 
middle of a regiment, and to sleeping 
when and where one could, in any amount 
of noise, I used to laugh at my scruples 
then, and only wondered they were all as 
good-tempered and patient as they were 
with what must have seemed to them my 
extraordinary English ideas. The doctor 



REJOINING THE SERBIANS 21 

sent me down some supper of bread and 
cheese and eggs, and presently came down 
himself and sat on the grass beside me as 
I ate it, and altogether they all did their 
best to make me comfy, and were as 
amiable as only Serbians can be when 
you rouse them out in the middle of the 
night and turn everything upside down. 
It reminded me somewhat of my arrival 
in Valjevo, at the beginning of the typhus 
epidemic, when owing to the vagaries of 
the Serbian trains I was landed at the 
hospital at 3 a.m., after everyone had 
given me up. After I had finished my 
supper I crawled into my tent, tightly 
rolled myself up into the blankets as it was 
a very cold night, and slept like a top on 
my bed of hay. 



CHAPTER II 



A SERBIAN AMBULANCE AT WORK — 
WE START TO RETREAT 

Next morning we all turned out at day- 
break, and I got a better view of my 
surroundings. The ambulance itself con- 
sisted of one largish tent, where the 
patients lie on their clothes on very 
muddy straw, until they can be removed 
to the base hospital by bullock-wagon. 
This is done as often as transport permits. 
There were a few cases of dressings, 
drugs, etc., in the tent, and a small table 
for writing at. There were about twenty 
patients in at one time, some of them sick 

22 



A SERBIAN AMBULANCE 23 

and some wounded. About a dozen little 
tents, similar to mine, for the soldiers and 
ambulance men, and two or three wagons 
completed the outfit. 

There was a Serbian girl, about seven- 
teen, helping ; she was very unlike any 
other Serbian woman I had ever met, 
lived and dressed just like the soldiers, 
and was very good to the sick men. She 
spoke German very well, so that we 
understood each other and became very 
good friends ; she gave me lots of tips, 
and though I had been under the im- 
pression that I knew something about 
camping out and roughing it, having done 
so already in various parts of the world, 
she could walk rings round me in that 
respect. The first thing the men did 
after I had had some tea with them by 

C2 



24 A SERBIAN AMBULANCE 

the camp fire was to set to work to con- 
vince me of the error of my ways, and to 
move my little tent back to its old spot 
before any harm could happen to me. We 
don't have breakfast in Serbia, but have 
an early glass of tea, very hot and sweet, 
without milk. 

The doctor came down shortly after- 
wards to prescribe for the men who were 
sick, and then a couple of orderlies and 
myself dressed the wounded ones, those 
who were able to walk coming out of the 
tent and squatting down on the grass 
outside, where there was more room, and 
light enough to see what you were doing. 
They kept straggling in all day from 
Baboona, where there was a battle going 
on ; it was not far away, and the guns 
sounded very plain. There were not very 



A SERBIAN AMBULANCE 25 

many seriously wounded, but I am afraid 
that was because the path down the 
mountains is so steep that it is almost 
impossible to get a badly wounded man 
down on a stretcher. Any who are able 
to walk down do so, and they were glad to 
get their wounds dressed and be able to lie 
down. At lunch-time we knocked off for 
a couple of hours, and I went back with 
the doctor to his loft. We had lunch in 
great style, sitting on his bed, there being 
no chairs, and with a blue pocket-hand- 
kerchief spread out between us for a 
table-cloth. He said they were expecting 
to have a retreat at any moment, and that 
we must always be in readiness for it as 
soon as the order arrived. All the patients 
we had were to go off that afternoon 
if the bullock- wagons arrived. This ques- 



26 A SERBIAN AMBULANCE 

tion of transport is always a terrible 
problem ; in many cases bullock- wagons 
are the only things that will stand the 
rough tracks, although here there was a 
good road all the way to Bitol, and had we 
had a service of motor-cars we could have 
saved the poor fellows an immense amount 
of suffering. Imagine yourself with a 
shattered leg lying in company with three 
or four others on the floor of a springless 
bullock- wagon, jolting like that over the 
rough roads for twenty or thirty miles. 
When I was in Kragujewatz we used to 
get in big batches of wounded who had 
travelled like that for three or four days 
straight from the Front, with only the first 
rough dressing which each man carries in 
his pocket. 

The wagons came that afternoon, but 



A SERBIAN AMBULANCE 27 

only two or three for the lying- down 
patients ; several poor chaps who were so 
sick they could hardly crawl had to turn 
out and start on a weary walk of a good 
many miles to the nearest hospital at 
Prilip. One man protested that he would 
never do it, and I really didn't think he 
could, and said so; however, the ambu- 
lance men, who were well up to their work, 
explained that it was absolutely impera- 
tive that all should get off into safety day 
by day, otherwise when the order came 
suddenly to retreat we might find our- 
selves landed with an overflowing tentful 
of sick and wounded men, and no trans- 
port available on the spot. " Go, brother," 
they said kindly, " Idi polako, polako " 
("Go slowly, slowly"), and fortified with 
a drink of cognac from the ambulance 



28 A SERBIAN AMBULANCE 

stores, and a handful of cigarettes from 
me, he and the others like him set off. 

We all turned in prepared that evening, 
and I was cautioned to take not even my 
boots off. Later on, sleeping in one's 
clothes didn't strike me as anything un- 
usual ; in fact, two months later, when we 
had finished marching and arrived at 
Durazzo, it was some time before I 
remembered that it was usual to undress 
when you went to bed, and that once 
upon a time, long, long ago, I used to do 
the same. 

In the middle of the night a special 
messenger arrived with a carriage from 
the English Consul at Bitol, advising me 
to come back at once, and that a motor- 
car would meet me in Prilip, and take me 
back to Bitol. I knew perfectly well that 



A SERBIAN AMBULANCE 29 

I should not be able to find the motor-car 
in the middle of the night in Prilip, which 
is as dark as the nethermost regions, 
there not being a lamp in the town, and 
that it would probably mean sitting up in 
the carriage in one of those dirty little 
streets all night ; so I said all right, I 
would see about it in the morning, and 
went to bed again. In the morning I had 
another look at the telegram, and as it 
was not an order to go back, but only 
advising me strongly to do so, I said I 
meant to stop. They all seemed very 
pleased because I said I wanted to stick 
with the Serbians, and, as we all sat round 
the camp fire in the bitter cold of a 
November sunrise, we drank the healths of 
England and Serbia together in tin mugs 
full of strong, hot tea. 



30 A SERBIAN AMBULANCE 

Later on during the day came another 
telegram, and I must say that the EngHsh 
Consul at Bitol was a perfect trump in the 
way he did his duty by stray English 
subjects and looked after their safety, 
before he finally had himself to leave for 
Salonica. A Serbian officer was sent out 
from somewhere, and he said that if I 
liked to throw in my lot with them and 
stop he would send out a wagon and 
horses, in which I could live and sleep, and 
in which I could carry my luggage. I 
hadn't very much of the latter, and what 
I had I was perfectly willing to abandon 
if it was any bother, but he wouldn't hear 
of that ; and in due course the wagon 
arrived, and proved, when a little hay had 
been put on the floor to sleep on, a most 
snug abode. 



A SERBIAN AMBULANCE 31 

The next day the wounded kept strag- 
gling in all day, faster than we could 
evacuate them, and when the order came 
at ten o'clock that night that the regiment 
was forced to retreat from Baboona, and 
that the ambulance was to start at once, 
we had sixteen wounded in the tent, 
twelve of them unable to walk. The 
Serbian ambulances travel very light, and 
half an hour after receiving our orders we 
were on the move, the men being adepts 
at packing up tents and starting at a 
moment's notice. At the last moment, 
while the big ambulance tent was being 
taken down, a man with a very bad 
shrapnel wound in the ankle was carried 
in, and as it was blowing a gale, and we 
couldn't keep a lamp alight, I dressed it 
by the light of a pocket electric torch, 



32 A SERBIAN AMBULANCE 

which I fortunately had with me. They 
said at first that he would have to go on 
as he was, but as I knew very well that it 
might be three or four days before he 
would get another dressing I insisted on 
them getting out some iodine, gauze, etc., 
and kneeling in the mud, and with some 
difficulty under the circumstances as the 
tent was being taken down over my head, 
I cut off his boot and bloody bandages 
(he had been wounded in the morning) 
and cleaned and dressed the wound. He 
was awfully good, poor fellow, though it 
hurt him horribly, and he hardly made a 
murmur. Then two ambulance men car- 
ried him out to the ox-wagon, three of 
which had appeared from somewhere, I 
don't know where. I found the Kid, as 
I called her, had been working like a 



A SERBIAN AMBULANCE 33 

Trojan in the pitch dark and pelting rain 
helping the men through the thick slippery- 
mud down the bank to the road, and had 
settled four men, lying down, in each 
wagon, that being all they could hold, 
and had also decided the knotty point 
which should be the four unlucky ones 
who had to walk— these four being, I may 
say, quite well enough to walk, but 
naturally not being anxious to do so. 
When they were all started off, she and I 
clambered into our wagon, and the whole 
cavalcade set off in the pitch dark, not 
having the faintest idea (at least, we had 
not, I don't know if anybody else had) 
where we were going to travel to or how 
long for. We were a long cavalcade with 
all the ambulance staff, the Komorra or 
transport, and a good many soldiers all 



34 A SERBIAN AMBULANCE 

armed, and a most unpleasant night we 
had rumbhng along in the dark, halting 
every few miles, not knowing whether the 
Bulgars had got there first and cut the 
road in front of us, or what was hap- 
pening. It was bitterly cold besides, and 
as the Kid and I were black and blue from 
jolting about on the floor of our wagon I 
began to wonder how the poor wounded 
ever survived it at all. 

A little way on we picked up a young 
recruit who said he was wounded and 
couldn't walk ; our driver demurred, 
saying that he had had orders that no one 
else was to use our wagon, but we said, 
of course, the poor boy was to come in 
if he was wounded. He lay on my feet 
all night, which didn't add to my com- 
fort, though it kept them warm. He 



A SERBIAN AMBULANCE 35 

was evidently starving, so we gave him 
half a loaf of bread that we had with us, 
and some brandy out of my water-bottle, 
and he went to sleep. 

Putting brandy in my water-bottle had 
been suggested to me by a tale a young 
Austrian officer, a prisoner, who was one 
of my patients in Kragujewatz hospital, 
told me. Poor boy, he had been badly 
wounded in the leg, and was telling me 
some of his experiences during the war 
and about the terrible journey after he 
was wounded, travelling in a bullock cart. 
He said he had a flask full of brandy, 
and that was a help while it lasted. When 
that was all gone he filled up the flask 
with tea, which was pretty good, too, as 
it had a stray flavour of brandy still, and 
then when he had drunk all that he put 



36 A SERBIAN AMBULANCE 

water in, and that had the flavour of 
tea ! 

The next morning our " wounded hero " 
hopped off quite unhurt, and we couldn't 
help laughing at the way we had been 
done. It was a bitterly cold dawn, and 
we found to our sorrow that the recruit 
had not put the cork back in my water- 
bottle, and the rest of the brandy had 
upset, as had also a bottle of raspberry 
syrup which the Kid set great store by. 
I once upset a pot of gooseberry jam in a 
small motor-car, and it permeated every- 
thing until I had to take the car to a 
garage to be washed, and go and take a 
bath myself before I could get rid of it; 
but it was not a patch in the way of 
stickiness to a pot of raspberry syrup let 
loose in a jolting wagon, and we were very 



A SERBIAN AMBULANCE 37 

glad to get out at daybreak, after eight 
hours' travelling, to walk a bit to stretch 
our legs, and also to wipe off some of the 
stickiness with some grass. 

We came through Prilip that night, 
and were rather doubtful how we shoiild 
get through, but though the people 
standing about glowered at us, and we 
heard a few shots in the distance, nothing 
much happened, and only one man got 
slightly hurt. 

We arrived somewhere between Prilip 
and Bitol at sunrise, and made a big fire 
and waited for further orders when the 
Colonel of the regiment should arrive. 
Presently he rode up with his staff, and I 
was introduced to Colonel Militch, the 
Commandant of the Second Regiment. 
My first impression of him was that he 




38 A SERBIAN AMBULANCE 

was a real sport, and later on, when I got 
to know him very well and had the privi- 
lege of being a soldier in his regiment, 
I found out that not only was he a sport, 
but one of the bravest soldiers and most 
chivalrous gentlemen anyone ever served 
under. We stood roimd the fire for some 
time and had a great powwow; my 
Serbian was still in an embryo stage, but 
the Colonel spoke German. 

We were all very cold and hungry, but 
one of the officers of the staff, who was a 
person of resource, made some rather 
queerish coffee in a big tin mug on the 
fire, and we all had some, and it tasted 
jolly good and hot, and then the Colonel 
produced a bottle of liqueur from a little 
handbag, and we drank each other's 
healths. I got to know that little hand- 



A SERBIAN AMBULANCE 39 

bag well later — it used always to miracu- 
lously appear when everybody was cold^ 
tired and dying for a drink. 

After a couple of hours the ambulance 
went on about a mile and pitched camp, 
and I went with them. The Kid went to 
sleep in the wagon and I did the same 
outside on the grass. The doctor sent me 
a piece of bread and cheese, which I 
casually ate on the spot, not liking to 
wake the Kid up, but afterwards I was 
filled with remorse for my thoughtlessness, 
when I was convicted by her later on for 
not being a good comrade at all, as it 
appeared it was the only eatable thing in 
camp ; but, as I was new and green at 
" retreating," at that time it never 
dawned on me : I learnt better ways^ 
later on. I made her some tea with 

D2 



40 A SERBIAN AMBULANCE 

my tea-basket, but it was not very 
satisfying. 

Later on in the day the Commandant 
of the Bitol Division, Colonel Wasitch, 
and an English officer came up in a car. 
I was introduced to them, and went with 
them in the car somewhere up the road to 
visit a camp. The Commandant of the 
division went off to attend to business, 
leaving the English officer and myself to 
amuse ourselves as we liked. 

Here we were witnesses of a case of 
corporal punishment. I relate it because 
some people think this is quite a 
common occurrence ; it is not, cruelty 
is absolutely foreign to their natures. 
Some people once talked of setting 
up a branch of the " Prevention of 
Cruelty to Animals" in Serbia, and were 



A SERBIAN AMBULANCE 41 

asked in astonishment what work they 
supposed they would find to do ; who ever 
heard of a Serbian being cruel to child or 
animal ? Corporal pimishment, that is to 
say, a certain number of strokes with a 
stick (maximum 25 — schoolboys will know 
on what part), is the legitimate and recog- 
nised way of punishing in the Serbian 
Army, and the sentence is carried out 
by a non-commissioned officer. As 
an officer once explained to me, some 
punishment you must have in the in- 
terests of discipline, and what else can you 
do in wartime, when you are on the move 
every day ? Particularly was it so at 
this most critical juncture, when it would 
have been fatal for the whole Army 
had the men been allowed to get out of 
hand. 



42 A SERBIAN AMBULANCE 

This question of corporal punishment 
in the Serbian Army has so frequently 
been brought up to me by English and 
French officers that I purposely mention 
it, as I have always tried to thoroughly 
disabuse their minds of any idea that the 
men were indiscriminately knocked about. 
I may add that it is not so very many 
years since flogging was abolished in our 
own Navy, and no doubt in course of 
time the Serbian Army will follow suit. 
The most popular officer I knew, who 
was absolutely adored by his own men, 
was extremely ready to award corporal 
punishment. " My soldiers have got 
to be soldiers,^ ^ he replied curtly to 
me once, and his men certainly were. 
These things always depend largely on the 
j)articular officer, of course. I think the 



A SERBIAN AMBULANCE 43 

Serbian soldier, more than anyone else I 
have ever come across, can excel as a 
" passive resister " when he is under an 
unpopular officer ; while all the time 
keeping himself just within the bounds of 
discipline, he will contrive to avoid doing 
anything he does not wish to do, while he 
is extraordinarily " clannish " and loyal 
to one whom he likes. In the critical 
moments in a battle it is not the question 
whether an officer is " active " or 
" reserve " that counts, or whether he 
has passed through his military academy 
or risen from the ranks, but whether the 
men will follow him or not. 

Captain and I walked back to the 

ambulance together and found that some 
of the orderlies had got a pig from some- 
where and were roasting it with a long 



44 A SERBIAN AMBULANCE 

pole through it over the camp fire : it 
smelt jolly good, and as we were very 
hungry, having had nothing to eat but a 
piece of bread and cheese, we accepted 
their invitation to have supper with them 
with alacrity. As soon as it was cooked 
we all sat round the big fire in a semi- 
circle, and ate roast pig with our fingers, 
there being no plates or cutlery available, 

and Captain said he had never 

tasted anything so good in his life, and 
wished he could come and join our 
ambulance altogether. 

At some of the other fires dotted about 
they were roasting some unwary geese 
which had been foolish enough to stray 
roimd our camp. As the inhabitants of 
the houses had fled leaving them behind 
we certainly could not call it looting. 



A SERBIAN AMBULANCE 45 

Looting was very firmly checked ; the 
Serbian is far from being the undisci- 
plined soldier in that respect that some 
people suppose. 




CHAPTER III 



A RIDE TO KALABAC AND A BATTLE IN THE 
SNOW 

It snowed hard in the night and most of 
the next day and was bitterly cold, blowing 
a gale, but my wagon was a good bit 
snugger than the tent. The Colonel and 
his staff had quarters in a loft over a little 
cafe just along the road, and after lunch 
the Commander of the division, who 
came with two English officers, took the 
Kid and me with them in their cars some 
miles back along the road towards Prilip, 
where we all walked about and inspected 
the new positions part of the regiment 

46 



A RIDE TO KALABAC 47 

was to take up. The Kid went back to 
Bitol in the ear with them that evening 
to fetch some clothes, and I never saw her 
again, though I beUeve she did want to 
come back to us later on. 

I used to sit over the camp fires in the 
evenings with the soldiers, and we used to 
exchange cigarettes and discuss the war 
by the hour. I was picking up a few 
more words of Serbian every day, and 
they used to take endless trouble to make 
me understand, though our conversations 
were very largely made up of signs, but 
I understood what they meant if I couldn't 
always understand what they said. It 
was heartbreaking the way they used to 
ask me every evening, " Did I think the 
English were coming to help them ? " and 
"Would they send cannon?" The Bui- 



48 A RIDE TO KALABAC 

garians had big guns, and we had nothing 
but some httle old cannon about ten 
years old, which were really only what the 
comitadjes used to use. If we had had a 
few big guns we could have held the 
Baboona Pass practically for any length 
of time, for it was an almost impregnable 
position. I used to cheer them up as best 
I could, and said I was sure that some 
guns would come, and that even if they 
did not they must not think that the 
English had deserted them, as I supposed 
they had big plans in their head that we 
knew nothing about, and that though we 
might have to retreat now everything 
would come right in the end. It was 
touching the faith they had in the English, 
whom they all described as going " slowly 
but surely." They were very much 



A RIDE TO KALABAC 49 

excited when they saw the two Enghsh 
officers, as they were sure they had come 
to say some Enghsh troops were coming. 

One day, however, one thousand new 
Enghsh rifles did come, and there was great 
rejoicing thereat. 

With the courtesy which always dis- 
tinguishes the Serbian peasant, they used 
always to stand up and make room for me, 
and bring a box for me to sit on in the 
most comfortable place by the fire, out of 
the smoke, and I used to spend hours 
like this with them. Under happier cir- 
cumstances they would all have been 
singing their national songs and dancing, 
but, though there were many fine singers 
among them, nothing would induce them 
to sing : they were too broken-hearted at 
being driven back. One man did start a 



50 A RIDE TO KALABAC 

song one night to please me, but he broke 
down in the middle and said he knew I 
would understand why he could not 
sing. 

There was deep snow on the ground, and 
it was bitterly cold, and the men used to 
anxiously ask me if I managed to keep 
warm at night, as they huddled up to- 
gether, four in one tiny tent, for warmth, 
and seemed to rather fear that they might 
find me frozen to death some morning in 
my wagon, but I was really quite warm 
enough. 

The next day, while we were doing the 
dressings, a man came in who had walked 
from Nish, twenty-two days' tramp. He 
was a cheery soul, and said he felt very fit, 
but he looked as thin as a rake. We all 
crowded round him to hear the news. He 



Ci 



^/ 



A RIDE TO KALABAC 51 

said that the town of Nish was evacuated 
and everyone gone to Krushavatz. 

Commandant Mihtch told me he was 
sending for his second horse, so that I 
could ride her. When she arrived she 
proved to be a very fine white half-Arab, 
who could gallop like the wind, and I 
grew very fond of her. She had a passion 
for sugar, and always expected a bit when 
she saw me. The Commandant had 
moved his quarters a few miles farther 
up the road towards Prilip to a small 
deserted hahn, or inn, consisting of two 
small rooms by the roadside. It was close 
to the village of Topolchar. I had been 
cautioned not to stray away from the 
camp by myself, as it was very unsafe ; 
only a few days before Bulgarian comi- 
tadjes had swooped down and taken 



52 A RIDE TO KALABAC 

prisoner a Serbian soldier who had gone 
to fetch some water not a quarter of a 
mile from his own camp. One bright 
sunny morning, however, the hills looked 
so tempting that I went for a stroll and 
wandered on farther than I intended. I 
was out of sight of the camp, when sud- 
denly I heard voices behind some trees, 
though I could not see anybody, and I 
knew that none of oiu* men were camping 
near. Discretion conquering curiosity, 
I beat a dignified retreat at a brisk 
walk, as I was quite unarmed at the time, 
and they told me when I got back it was 
a good thing I did. I took no more 
constitutionals over the hills while in 
that neighbourhood, anyhow, for I had 
no wish to cut off my career with the 
Army by suddenly disappearing, as no 



A RIDE TO KALABAX: 53 

one would know what had become of 
me. 

One day I rode over on Diana, my 
white mare, to see the Commandant and 
his staff at the hahn. They all wel- 
comed me most warmly, inviting me to 
stop to supper, sleep there, and ride out 
next day with them to the moimtain of 
Kalabac, to visit the positions there. I 
accepted joyfully. They said I could 
either sleep there near the stove or have 
my wagon brought up, if I was not afraid 
of being too cold. I decided in favour of 
the wagon, as the hahn was already 
pretty crowded ; so they telephoned for 
it, and in due course it arrived with my 
orderly. It was a grey-covered wagon, 
and I had christened it "My little grey 
home in the west." A house on wheels is 



54 A RIDE TO KALABAC 

an ideal arrangement, as if you take it 
into your head to sleep anywhere else you 
go off and your house simply follows you. 
It was planted exactly opposite the door, 
with a sentry to guard me. 

The Commandant, in spite of all his 
troubles, was full of fun, and even in the 
darkest and most anxious hours in the 
tragic weeks that followed kept up every- 
one's spirits and thought of everyone's 
comfort before his own. After a most 
hilarious supper I turned in, as we were 
to make an early start next morning. 

Next day the Commandant, his Adju- 
tant and I, with four armed gendarmes, 
rode off to Kalabac. It was a lovely day, 
and we had about two hours' ride across 
coimtry to the first line of trenches. The 
Commandant and I used to have a 



A RIDE TO KALABAC 55 

race whenever we got to a good bit of 
ground. He was a fine rider, and, as the 
horses were pretty well matched, we used 
to get up a break-neck speed sometimes, 
and had some splendid gallops. About a 
year before in Kragujewatz I was riding 
with a Serbian soldier who had been sent 
with a horse for me, and he said : " What 
did I want to be a nurse for ? " and tried 
to persuade me not to go back to the 
hospital, but to join the Army then and 
there, regardless of my poor patients 
expecting me back. 

The first line of trenches that we came 
to were little shallow trenches dotted 
about on the hillside, with about a dozen 
men in each. We sat in one of them and 
drank coffee, and I thought then that I 
should be able to tell them at home that 

E2 



56 A RIDE TO KALABAC 

I had been in a real Serbian trench, Httle 
thinking at the time that I was going 
to do it in good earnest later on under 
different circumstances. 

After that we went on up to another 
position right at the top of Kalabac. 
It was a tremendous ride, and I could 
never have believed that horses could 
have climbed such steep places, or have 
kept their feet on some of the obsta- 
cles we went over, but these horses 
were trained to it, and could get through 
or over anything. Just the last bit of 
the way we all had to dismount, and, 
leaving the horses with the gendarmes, 
did the rest on foot. There was no need 
for trenches there, as it was very rocky, 
and there was plenty of natural cover. 
Major B and another officer met us 



A RIDE TO KALABAC 57 

near the top, and he and the Commandant 
went off to discuss things. It happened 
to be Captain Pesio's " Slava " day. 
This " Slava " day is an institution 
peculiar only to the Serbians, and which 
they always keep most faithfully. Every 
family and every regiment has one. It is 
the day of their particular patron saint, 
and is handed down from father to son. 
It is kept up for three days with as much 
jollification as circumstances permit, even 
in wartime. I have been the guest at 
plenty of other Slava days in Serbia, 
but I never enjoyed anything so much as 
I did that one. We sat round the fire on 
boxes or logs of wood under the shelter 
of a big overhanging rock, with a most 
gorgeous panorama of the country stretch- 
ing for miles round, and had a very festive 



58 A RIDE TO KALABAC 

lunch, and all drank Captain Pesio's 
health. In the middle of lunch I had 
my first sight of the enemy, a Bulgarian 
patrol in the distance, and orders were 
promptly given to some of our men to 
go down and head them off. The men 
all seemed to be in high spirits up there, 
in spite of the cold, and some of them 
were roasting a pig, although I suppose 
that was a " Slava " luxury for them, not 
to be had every day. 

It was eviening by the time we left, and 
we slipped and slid down the mountain 
again by moonlight. When we got back 
to the first trenches which we had visited 
we made a short halt, and sat in an 
officer's little tent and drank tea. He had 
certainly not been at war for four years 
without learning how to make himself 



A RIDE TO KALABAC 59 

comfortable under adverse circumstances, 
and had brought it down to a fine art. 
He had a tiny Httle tent, one side of which 
was pitched against a bank, and in the 
bank there was a hole, with a large fire in 
it, and a sort of timnel leading up to the 
outer air for a chimney. His blanket 
was spread on some boughs woven together 
for a bed, and he was as snug and warm 
as a toast when he did get a chance to 
sleep in his tent, which was apparently 
not very often. He was very popular 
with everyone, and the Commandant 
spoke particularly of his bravery. We 
were quite sorry to leave and turn out 
into the cold night air. 

We had a long ride home, ending up 
with a hard gallop along the last bit of 
road, and it was late when we got back to 



60 A RIDE TO KALABAC 

the hahn. There was a big fire going in 
the iron stove, and we soon thawed out. 
The Commandant sat down at his table 
and dictated endless despatches to his 
Adjutant, while I dosed on his camp bed 
till about ten, when he finished his work 
for the time being and we had supper. 
Every now and then there would be a rap 
at the door, and an exhausted, half-frozen 
rider would come in bearing a despatch from 
one of the outlying positions on the hills. 

I was very sorry afterwards that I had 
not taken my camera with me up to the 
positions, but I was not sure at the time 
if they would like me to, though after- 
wards they told me I might take it any- 
where I liked. 

There was another small ambulance 
here in charge of the proper regimental 



A RIDE TO KALABAC 61 

doctor, and in the afternoon everyone 
was ordered to move up into the 
village, Topolchor, and find rooms there. 
The soldiers were all delighted at the 
prospect of getting under a roof of any 
kind, though I felt quite sorry at leaving 
my Little Grey Home. The doctor got 
me a nice big empty room in what was 
formerly the school. There was a pile 
of desks and tables filling up one side of 
it, and a stove, but otherwise no furniture. 
After my orderly had unpacked my camp 
bed and lit the stove I had some visitors : 
three or four old native women, who came 
up and inspected me and all my belong- 
ings closely, and seemed deeply impressed 
with the extraordinary luxury in which 
an Englishwoman lived, with a room to 
herself, a bed and sl rubber bath ! I had 



62 A RIDE TO KALABAC 

been making futile efforts, by the way, 
for the last few days to make use of this 
same bath, in spite of my orderly's repeated 
assurances that you could not have a 
bath in wartime, which I found after- 
wards to be strictly true. I did not suc- 
ceed even here, owing to the lack of water 
and anything to carry it in. 

The villagers themselves, those who 
had not already fled in terror, seemed to 
live in the most abject poverty, huddled 
together in houses no better than pigsties. 
The place was infested by enormous 
mongrel dogs, which used to pursue me 
in gangs, barking and growling, but they 
had a wholesome respect for a stone, and 
never came to close quarters. 

Next morning I went for a long ride 
with the Commandant to inspect some 



A RIDE TO KALABAC 63 

more of the positions. He had to hold an 
enormous front with only two regiments, 
and, as we were outnumbered by the 
Bulgarians by more than four to one, 
when the latter could not break through 
our lines they simply made an encircling 
movement and walked round them, and, 
as there were absolutely no reserves, 
every available man being already in the 
fighting line, troops had to abandon some 
other position in order to cut across and 
bar their route. Thus we were constantly 
being edged back, and were very many 
times in great danger of being surrounded* 
We were fighting a rear-guard action prac- 
tically all the time for the next six weeks — 
a mere handful of troops, worn out by 
weeks of incessant fighting, hungry, sick, 
and with no big guns to back them up. 



64 A RIDE TO KALABAC 

retreating slowly and in good order before 
overwhelming forces of an enemy who was 
fresh, well equipped and with heavy 
artillery. It was no use throwing men's 
lives away by holding on to positions 
when no purpose could be gained by it, 
though the Colonel felt it keenly that the 
finest regiment in the Army should have 
to abandon position after position, 
although contesting every inch, with- 
out having a chance of going on the 
offensive. It was heartbreaking work for 
all concerned, and the way they accom- 
plished it is an everlasting credit to 
officers and men alike. 

My orderly told me he had heard we were 
going that evening, so he packed up every- 
thing, camp bed included, and put it in my 
wagon. We hung about all the evening 



A RIDE TO KALABAC 65 

expecting to get the order to go at any 
moment, as the horses were always kept 
ready saddled in the stable, and you 
simply had to " stand by " and wait until 
you were told to go, and then be ready to 
get straight off. Eventually, however, 
the Commandant came back and said we 
were not going that night, and we had a 
quiet supper about ten o'clock and turned 
in, with a warning to be up early in the 
morning. As my bed was packed up I 
rolled myself up in a blanket on the floor, 
and my orderly did likewise at the other 
side of the stove and kept the fire up. It 
was snowing hard and frightfully cold. 
At daybreak we did move, but not very 
far, only to the little hahn by the roadside ; 
and there we stood about in the snow and 
listened to a battle which was apparently 



66 A RIDE TO KALABAC 

going on quite close ; although we strained 
our eyes we could see nothing — there was 
such a frightful blizzard. A company of 
reinforcements passed us and floundered 
off through the deep snow drifts across 
the fields in the direction of the firing. 
There was no artillery fire (I suppose they 
could not haul the guns through the snow), 
but the crackle of the rifles got nearer and 
nearer, and at last about midday they 
were so close that we could hear the wild 
" Hourrah, Hourrahs " of the Bulgarians 
as they took our trenches, and as the 
blizzard had stopped for a bit we could 
see them coming streaking across the 
snow towards us, oiu* little handful of men 
retreating and reforming as they went. 
The Bulgarians always give the most 
blood-curdling yells when they charge. 



A RIDE TO KALABAC 67 

The ambulance was already gone, and 
there were only the Colonel and his staff, 
myself and the doctor left. The horses 
were brought out, and the order came to 
go, but only about three miles to where 
the big ambulance was camped with whom 
I had been at first. 

There was a river between the hahn 
and this ambulance, and the road went 
over a bridge. This bridge was heavily 
mined and was to be blown up as soon as 
our men were over, thus cutting off, or 
anyhow considerably delaying, the Bul- 
garians, as the river was uow a swollen 
icy torrent. We sat round the fire of the 
ambulance and dried our feet. Some of 
the men were soaking to the knees, having 
no boots, but only opankis, leather sandals 
fastened on with a strap which winds 



68 A RIDE TO KALABAC 

round the leg up to the knee. Later on 
some wounded were brought in, given a 
very hurried dressing, and despatched at 
once to the base hospital. The majority 
of them seemed to be hit in the right arm 
or wrist, but I am afraid perhaps the 
worst wounded never reached us. One 
poor fellow who was hit in the abdomen 
was, I am afraid, done for ; he would 
hardly live till he got to the hospital. 

We heard no more firing till late in the 
afternoon, when all at once it broke out 
again quite close, and with big guns as 
well this time. We wondered how on 
earth they had been able to get them 
across the river, but the explanation was 
forthcoming when we heard that the 
bridge, although it had ten mines in it, had 
failed to blow up— the mines would not 



A RIDE TO KALABAC 69 

explode ; no one knew why. I floun- 
dered through the snow up a httle hill 
with some of the others to see if we could 
see anything, but we could not see much 
through the winter twilight except the 
flashes from the guns momentarily light- 
ing up the snow banks, and hear the noise 
of the shells as they whistled overhead. 

This had been going on for a 
couple of hours now, and the Greek 
doctor was getting into a regular funk 
because they had had no orders to move, 
though it was all right as we had no 
wounded in the tent to be carried away, 
and no one else was worrying about it ; 
but he finally sent a messenger up to the 
Commandant, as he seemed to think the 
ambulance had been forgotten. A couple 
of days afterwards the men told me 



70 A RIDE TO KALABAC 

with much scorn that that afternoon had 
been too much for him, and that he did a 
retreat on his own and never came back 
to the ambulance again. I was just think- 
ing of looking round for something to 
eat, as I had had neither breakfast nor 
lunch, and had been much too busy 
to think about it, when the order 
arrived for the ambulance to pack up 
and move, and the tents came down 
like lightning. The soldiers were all re- 
treating across the snow, and I never saw 
such a depressing sight. The grey No- 
vember twilight, the endless white ex- 
panse of snow, lit up ev^ry moment by 
the flashes of the guns, and the long 
column of men trailing away into the 
dusk wailing a sort of dismal dirge— I 
don't know what it was they were singing 



A RIDE TO KALABAC 71 

—something between a song and a sob, 
it sounded like the cry of a Banshee. I 
have never heard it before or since, but 
it was a most heartbreaking sound. 

My sais (groom) brought Diana round 
to me. I asked him if he had been told 
to do so, and he said " No," but that I 
" had better go now." He shook his 
head dubiously, murmuring, " Safer to go 
now," when I told him I was coming later 
on with the Commandant and his staff. 

War always seems to turn out exactly 
the opposite to what you imagine is going 
to happen. Such a great proportion of it 
consists of "an everlastin' waiting on an 
everlastin' road," as someone has already 
written. Bairnsfather hits it oft exactly 
in his picture of the young officer with 
his new sword : how he pictures himself 

F2 




72 A RIDE TO KALABAC 

using it, charging at the head of his com- 
pany, and how he really does use it, 
toasting bread over the camp fire ! I 
had some wild visions in my head — as I 
knew the Commandant would wait until 
the last moment — of a tremendous gallop 
over the snow, hotly pursued by Bul- 
garian cavalry. I imagine I must once 
have seen something like it on a cine- 
matograph. What, however, really did 
happen was that, having received per- 
mission to stop, I sat for four hours in 
company with seven or eight officers who 
were waiting for orders, on a hard bench 
in a freezing cold shed, which in its 
palmier days might have been a cowhouse. 
I was ravenously hungry, and sucked a 
few Horlick's milk tablets I found in my 
pocket, but they did not seem so satis- 



A RIDE TO KALABAC 73 

fying as the advertisements would lead 
one to suppose. However, presently the 
jolly little captain, whose tent I described 
on Kalabac, came in, followed by his 
soldier servant bearing a hot roast chicken 
wrapped up in a piece of paper ! Where 
in the world he got it I can't think. We 
had no knives or forks, but we sat side by 
side, and each took hold of a leg and 
pulled till something gave. It tasted 
delicious ! He shared it roimd with every- 
body, and I don't think had much left 
for himself. Although he came straight 
from the trenches, where he had been 
fighting incessantly and had not slept for 
three nights himself, he was full of spirits 
and livened us all up, and we little thought 
that it was the last time we were to see 
him. I was terribly sorry to hear a few 



74 A RIDE TO KALABAC 

days later of the tragic death of my gay 
little friend. 

The firing had ceased, as it usually does 
at night, and at last, about nine o'clock, 
the Commandant appeared and the horses 
were brought out, and instead of the wild 
cinema gallop I had pictured we had one 
of the slowest, coldest rides you can 
imagine. There was a piercing blizzard 
blowing across the snowy waste, blinding 
our eyes and filling our ears with snow; 
our hands were numbed, and our feet 
so cold and wet we could hardly feel 
the stirrups. We proceeded in dead 
silence, no one feeling disposed to talk, 
and slowly threaded our way through 
crowds of soldiers tramping along, with 
bent heads, as silently as phantoms, the 
sound of their feet muffled by the snow. 



A RIDE TO KALAEAC 



I pitied the poor fellows from the bottom 
of my heart — they were so much colder 
and wearier even than I was myself, and 
I wondered where the " glory " of war 
came in. It was exactly like a nightmare, 
from which one might presently wake up. 
My dreams of home fires and hot muffins 
were brought to an abrupt termination by 
the Commandant suddenly breaking into 
a trot, when I found my knees were " set 
fast " with the cold, and I had a very 
painful five minutes till they loosened up. 
After a long time we turned oft the 
road across some snowy fields. I fol- 
lowed close behind the Commandant, who 
always made a bee line straight ahead 
through everything ; and after our horses 
had slipped and scrambled through a 
hedge, a couple of deep ditches and a 



76 A RIDE TO KALABAC 

stream we eventually got to the village 
of Mogilee, I think it was called. The 
soldiers bivouacked in some farm out- 
houses, and we were received by some 
officers in a big loft. They had a huge 
stove going and supper ready for us. We 
finished up the long day quite cheerily, 
even having a bottle of champagne that 
a comitadje brought as a present to the 
Commandant. We all slept that night 
in the loft on the floor, I being given the 
place of honour on a wide bench near the 
stove, while the other six or seven selected 
whichever particular board on the floor 
took their fancy most, and spread their 
blankets on it. Turning in was a simple 
matter, as you only have to take off your 
boots ; and, though the atmosphere got 
a bit thick, we all slept like tops. 




THE TENT I SLEPT IN FOR TWO MONTHS 
?age 24 




SERBIAN ARMY TRUDGING ALONG 
?age 77 



CHAPTER IV 



I MEET THE FOURTH COMPANY— A COLD 
NIGHT RIDE 

We were all up at daybreak next morning 
as usual ; no good Serbian sleeps after 
the first streak of light. It was still 
snowing fearfully hard, making it impos- 
sible to go out, though the Commandant 
and his Staff Captain rode out somewhere 
all the morning. We had sundry cups of 
tea and coffee during the morning and a 
pretty substantial snack of bread and eggs 
and cold pig about ten. I protested that 
I was not hungry, and that we should have 
lunch when the Commandant came in, 

77 



78 A COLD NIGHT RIDE 

but they reminded me of what had hap- 
pened to me yesterday in the matter of 
meals, and might possibly happen again 
to-morrow, and advised me to eat and 
sleep whenever I got a chance. They were 
old soldiers and spoke from experience, 
and I subsequently found it to be very 
good advice. 

It was a long day, as we had nothing to 
do. In the afternoon the doctor started 
to teach me some Serbian verbs, and after- 
wards we all played " Fox and Goose," 
and I initiated them into the mysteries of 
" drawing a pig with your eyes shut," and 
any other games we could think of with 
pencil and paper to while away the time. 

About dusk we set forth again to a small 
village, Orizir, close to Bitol. It was 
pitch dark as we splashed across a field 



A COLD NIGHT RIDE 79 

and a couple of streams to another little 
house which we occupied. It consisted 
of two tiny rooms, up a sort of ladder, 
with a fair-sized balcony in front. The 
balcony was quite sheltered with a big pile 
of straw at one end, and I elected to 
sleep there, though they were fearfully 
worried about it, and declared I should 
die of cold, in spite of my protestations 
that English people always sleep much 
better in the open air than in a hot room 
with all the windows shut. Foreigners 
always look upon English people as more 
than half mad on the subject of fresh 
air, especially at night. The next day 
my orderly, who was in a great state of 
mind, and seemed to think that I would 
lose caste with his fellow orderlies if I 
persisted in sleeping on the balcony, told 



80 A COLD NIGHT RIDE 

me that he had found another room for 
me in a hahn by the roadside, where I 
accordingly slept the next night, and sub- 
sequently we all moved down there. I 
actually got my long-sought-for bath that 
day, my resourceful man borrowing a 
sort of stable for me for an hour and fixing 
it up for me. As all old campaigners 
know, a certain kind of live stock, and 
plenty of them, is the inevitable accom- 
paniment to this sort of life, and is one of 
its greatest trials, though you do get more 
or less used even to that. I burnt a hole, 
in my vest cremating some of them, but 
judging by the look of my bathroom, 
where the soldiers had been sleeping, I 
am not at all siu^e that I did not carry 
more away with me than I got rid of. 
While I was engaged in this interesting 



A COLD NIGHT RIDE 81 

occupation my orderly called out that the 
English Consul was there and wished to 
see me, so I hastily dressed and went out 
to interview him. He had come in a car 
to take me back to Salonica with him if 
I wanted to go, which of course I did not ; 
so he just drove me into town to pick up 
a large case of cigarettes which I had 
previously ordered from Salonica for my- 
self and the soldiers and anyone else who 
ran short of them, and he also gave me a 
case of tins of jam and one of warm 
woollen helmets, which were very much 
appreciated by the men. He said he 
thought I was quite right to stop, and we 
parted warm friends. 

When I got back I found the Staff 
Captain, who was the Commandant's 
right hand, just going out for another 



82 A COLD NIGHT RIDE 

cold ride. He had had fever for the last 
two or three days, and looked so fearfully 
ill that I begged him not to go, as, however 
much he might, and did, boss everybody 
when he was well, he might let hirr^self be 
looked after a little bit when he was ill. 
Rather to my surprise he submitted quite 
meekly, and let me dose him with quinine, 
and tuck him up in his blankets by the 
stove, and as he was shivering violently I 
told his orderly to make him some hot 
tea and stand outside the door to see that 
no one came in to disturb him. As the 
tea did not seem to be forthcoming, I 
went out presently to see what was up, 
and found him with several of his fellow 
orderlies sitting in the snow round the 
camp fire having a meal of some kind. 
He said he had made the tea, but had not 



A COLD NIGHT RIDE 83 

any sugar; so I asked some of the 
others. 

" Now, don't you say ' Nema ' to me," 
I said, before he had time to speak, " but 
go and find some, because I know per- 
fectly well you have got it." It is a 
Serbian peculiarity, which I had found 
out long ago, that whenever you first ask 
for a thing they invariably say " Nema " 
(" There isn't any "). I have frequently 
been told that in a shop with the thing 
lying there under my eyes, because the 
man was too lazy to get up and get it. 
They thought it a great joke, and of course 
produced it, and " Don't say ' Nema ' to 
me " became a sort of laughing byword 
amongst some of the men afterwards when- 
ever I asked for anything. They have a 
keen sense of humour, and are always 




84 A COLD NIGHT RIDE 

ready for a laugh and a joke, and their 
gaiety and high spirits bubble up even 
under the most adverse circumstances. 

The rest of the Staff and I then made a 
fire in the other little room, and sat there 
and played chess and auction bridge, and 
were making a terrific noise over the latter, 
when the Commandant came back. If you 
really want an amusing occupation, likely 
to give rise to any amount of discussion and 
argument, try teaching auction bridge to 
three men who have never seen it played 
before, in a language your knowledge of 
which is so slight that you can only ask 
for the simplest things in the fewest 
possible words. You'll find the result is 
a very queer and original game. 

The next afternoon, it having at last 
stopped snowing, I walked over to visit 




00 



CO 

> 

-J 

< 

w 




A COLD NIGHT RIDE 85 

my old friends in the ambulance a couple 
of miles up the road, and we sat by the 
camp fire and pored over the map of 
Albania, whither we should soon be going, 
and discussed the war as usual. When I 
got back about sunset I found the Com- 
mandant had gone to visit a company 
who were camped about a mile and a half 
up the road, and his Adjutant was waiting 
for me, as we thought it would be a good 
opportunity to give away some of the 
warm woollen helmets while it was so cold. 
Accordingly, followed by a couple of men 
carrying the wool helmets, some cigarettes 
and a few pots of jam, we started for the 
camp. It turned out to be the Fourth 
Company of the First Battalion, strange 
to say, the very company that I after- 
wards joined, though I didn't guess that 



86 A COLD NIGHT RIDE 

at the time. It was a most picturesque 
scene with the httle tents all crowded 
together, and dozens of big camp fires 
blazing in the snow with soldiers sitting 
round them ; they all seemed very cheery 
in spite of the bitter cold. We had a 
great reception, the whole company was 
lined up, and under the direction of their 
Company Commander I gave every 
seventh man a white woollen helmet— 
unfortunately there were not enough for 
each man to have one — and every man a 
couple of cigarettes, and my orderly fol- 
lowed with half a dozen large pots of jam 
and a spoon, the men opening their mouths 
like young starlings waiting to be fed. 
This is a national custom in Serbia; 
directly you visit a house your hostess 
brings in a tray with a pot of jam, glasses 



A COLD NIGHT RIDE 87 

of water and a dish with spoons on it. 
You eat a spoonful of jam, take a drink of 
water, and put your spoon down on 
another dish provided for that purpose. 
It is very amusing to see a stranger the 
first time this is presented to him ; he 
generally does not know what he is sup- 
posed to do, or whether he is to dip the 
jam into the water, or vice versa, and how 
many spoonfuls it would be polite to eat, 
Serbian jam being extraordinarily good. 
One Englishman I knew wanted to go on 
eating several spoonfuls, and I had gently 
but firmly to check him. 

I was introduced to all the officers, 
and a great many of the men who 
were pointed out to me as having 
done something very special. One of the 
men was wearing an English medal for 

G2 



88 A COLD NIGHT RIDE 

" distinguished conduct in the field." The 
men seemed awfully pleased with their 
little presents ; they never have anything 
in the way of luxury — no jam, sweets or 
tobacco served out to them with their 
rations, no parcels or letters from home 
(at this time), no concerts or amusements 
got up for their benefit, none of the things 
that our Tommies hardly regard in the 
light of luxuries, but necessities. No one 
who has not lived with them can imagine 
how simply they live, how much they 
think of a very little, and what a small 
thing it takes to please them. After that 
little ceremony was over we sat round the 
officers' camp fire and a young sergeant 
— a student artist — played the flute very 
well indeed, and they sang some of their 
national songs. It was all so friendly and 



A COLD NIGHT RIDE 89 

fascinating that we were very loath in- 
deed to tear ourselves away, and I pro- 
mised to come back next day and take 
their photographs, but next day they 
were not there, having been ordered off at 
dawn to hold some positions up on the hills. 
Among other sundry oddments in my 
luggage I had a box of chessmen and a 
board, and as several of them could play 
we whiled away many weary hours when 
we had nothing else to do playing chess. 
The Commandant and I were very evenly 
matched, and we used to have some 
tremendous battles, sometimes long after 
everyone else was asleep, and always kept 
a careful record of who won. Some of 
the others were very keen on it too, and 
those who were not playing would stand 
round and offer advice. I used sometimes 



90 A COLD NIGHT RIDE 

to think, as I listened to the sounds of 
hurried packing up going on all round 
while we sat calmly playing chess, that 
the Bulgars would walk in one day and 
capture the lot of us, chessboard and all. 
About 9 p.m. next night the Comman- 
dant gave the order to start, and we walked 
the first mile, the horses being led behind, 
I suppose to get used to the roads, which 
were one slippery sheet of ice. When we 
got to Bitol, which was quite close, we 
went to the headquarters of the Com- 
mandant of the division, and sat there 
till about midnight, while he and our 
Commandant discussed matters. We met 
Dr. Nikotitch there again, and he and 
Commandant Wasitch asked me if I really 
had made up my mind to go on. They 
said the journey through Albania would 



A COLD NIGHT RIDE 91 

be very terrible, that nothing we had gone 
through so far was anything approaching 
it, and that they would send me down to 
Salonica if I liked. I was not quite sure 
whether having a woman with them might 
not be more of an anxiety and nuisance to 
them than anything else, though they 
knew I did not mind roughing it ; and I 
asked them, if so, to tell me quite frankly, 
and I would go down to Salonica that 
night. They were awfully nice, though, 
and said that " for them it would be better 
if I stopped, because it would encourage 
the soldiers, who already all knew me, and 
to whose simple minds I represented, so to 
speak, the whole of England." The only 
thought that buoyed them up at that time, 
and still does, was that England would never 
forsake them. So that settled the matter. 



92 A COLD NIGHT RIDE 

as I should have been awfully sorry if I 
had had to go back, and I believe the fact 
that I went through with them did perhaps 
sometimes help to encourage the soldiers, 
t We left there soon after midnight, and 
rode all night and most of the next day* 
The Commandant and his Staff Captain 
drove in a wagon, the same one that the 
Kid and I had driven in on the first night 
of the retreat. They asked me whether 
I would rather come in the wagon with 
them or ride, as the roads were simply 
terrible, but I elected to ride and chance 
Diana going on her head, which she did 
not do, however, as the Commandant, with 
his usual thoughtfulness, had had her 
roughed for me a few days before. We 
rode very, very slowly, always through 
crowds of soldiers, pack-horses and 



A COLD NIGHT RIDE 93 

donkeys, halting about every hour at 
little camp fires along the roadside made 
by our front guard, where we sat and 
warmed our feet for about a quarter of an 
hour till the tired soldiers could catch us 
up, there being frequent halts for them to 
^rest for a few minutes. I rode alongside 
the Adjutant and another officer, and was 
very glad that my orderly had filled my 
thermos flask with hot tea, with a good 
dash of cognac in it, which the three of 
us consumed while riding along. The 
roads were really fearful, one solid sheet 
of ice, and the Adjutant's horse came 
down so often that eventually he had 
to walk and lead it. Occasionally we 
all used to get down and walk for a 
bit to warm our feet, which became 
like blocks of ice, but the going was 




94 A COLD NIGHT RIDE 

so hard that we were glad to mount 
again. I say " mount," but in reahty^ 
what between wearing a heavy fur coat 
and getting colder and stiffer and wearier, 
it was more a sort of crawl up Diana's 
side that I did ; fortunately she was a 
patient animal, and used to stand still. 
It soothed my feelings to see that I was 
not the only one, several of the others 
having nearly as much difficulty in 
mounting. They were all so friendly, and 
I had more than one " Good luck to you " 
shouted after me. It was not really such 
a hard ride as we had expected, though, as 
stopping at the little camp fires and chatting 
with the men round them made a nice break. 
About daybreak we arrived at a hahn, 
where we found the ambulance again, 
and the Commandant and the Captain 



A COLD NIGHT RIDE 95 

got their horses there, and we all walked, 
and later on rode, up and up a winding 
road, up a mountain. It was bitterly cold, 
and every few yards we passed horrible 
looking corpses of bullocks, donkeys and 
ponies, with the hides and some of the 
flesh stripped from them ; sometimes 
there were packs, ammunition and rifles 
thrown away by the roadside, but very, 
very few of the latter ; a soldier is very 
far gone indeed before he will part with 
that. Of course everywhere swarmed 
with spies, and we stopped a man and a 
boy in civilian clothes carrying baskets ; 
they protested that they were going down 
to do somxC marketing or something of 
that sort, but whatever it was they 
wanted to do they were told they could 
not do it, and gently but firmly turned back. 



96 A COLD NIGHT RIDE 

At the very top we stopped at the ruins 
of a filthy little hut, where a halt was 
called and the field telephone rigged up. 
We built a fire outside— it was too dirty 
to go inside — under the wall, and had 
some coffee, and tried, very unsuccess- 
fully, to get out of the howling, bitter 
wind. The soldiers sat about and rested, 
and we stayed there until late in the after- 
noon. We were to spend the night at Resan, 
some way down the other side, and about 
3 o'clock the doctor said he was going 
down there, and I might as well come 
down with him and look for a room. Wily 
young man, he was petrified with cold 
himself and didn't like to say so, so had 
previously told the Staff Captain that / 
was cold and wanted to go into the town, 
and that, as I could not go by myself, 



A COLD NIGHT RIDE 97 

hadn't he better escort me? He let this 
out afterwards, and I was very indignant 
with him, but he was quite unabashed. 
He used to love teasing me, calling me 
" Napoleon " because I rode a white 
horse, and we were constantly sparring. 
My orderly, after a long search, found me 
quite a decent little room in a house close 
to the Caserne, w^here the staff were to be 
quartered. The family consisted of two 
old ladies and a girl, who all fell on my 
neck and hugged me, rather to my em- 
barrassment. One of the old ladies 
explained volubly that she had once had 
something — I never could quite make out 
whether it was a husband or a cat — and 
had lost it, and I was now to take its place 
in the family circle. 

We all sat round the stove in my little 



98 A COLD NIGHT RIDE 

room, which seemed quite a luxm-ious 
palace to me now, and I made them real 
EngHsh tea with my little tea-basket, 
and the poor old things seemed quite 
enchanted, as they had neither tea nor 
sugar in the house, and they fussed over 
me, and could not do enough for me. 

The next morning I stayed in bed till 
nearly eight, and, after dressing leisiu'ely, 
went up to see the Commandant and 
staff, who said they had begun to think 
they had lost me. About five o'clock my 
orderly came in in a great state of excite- 
ment and wrath, declaring that he did not 
know what to do with my things as the 
wagon had been taken for something else, 
and that the Commandant and staff were 
all gone. He was an excitable person, 
and used to get these panics occasionally, 



A COLD NIGHT RIDE 99 

and, as I knew perfectly well that whatever 
happened they would not leave me behind, 
I told him not to be such an ass, but to go 
and get my horse and I would go and find 
out for myself, as I could not get any 
sense out of him. I happened to meet 
the Commandant in the street, and, as I 
fully expected, we had supper quietly, 
and did not stir till 9 p.m. We nearly 
always did ride at night. We left very 
quietly, and walked the first bit of the 
way through the mud, and then rode up 
a beautiful serpentine road, which had 
originally been made by the Turks, through 
what looked as if it might be beautiful 
country if you could only see it. All the 
way along there were soldiers and camp 
fires, which looked so pretty twinkling all 
over the hills through the fir trees, and we 




100 A COLD NIGHT RIDE 

made frequent halts while the Com- 
mandant gave his orders. 

I thought we were going to ride all 
night, and it was a pleasant surprise when 
we turned off the road, and put our horses 
at a steep muddy bit of moimd at the top 
of which was an old block-house, one of 
the many built by the Tiu-ks and dotted 
all over that part of the country. The 
telephone was rigged up there, and it was 
full of officers and soldiers ; the ground 
all round was a perfect sea of mud, and 
there were soldiers everywhere. I had 
not the faintest idea whether we were 
going to stop there half an hour or for the 
rest of the night, and I don't suppose 
anybody else had either, except, perhaps, 
the Commandant. I sat by the stove for 
some time, and finally lay down on the 



A COLD NIGHT RIDE 101 



floor on some straw that looked not quite 
so dirty as the rest, though that is not 
saying much, but when I woke up some 
hours later I got the impression that I had 
strayed into a new version of the Black 
Hole of Calcutta. The whole floor was 
absolutely covered so thickly with sleeping 
men that you could not put your feet 
down without treading on them. I 
counted up to twenty-nine and then gave 
it up because I saw several more come in 
afterwards, though where they managed 
to wedge themselves in I do not know. 
The Commandant had left the telephone 
and was sleeping peacefully among the 
others ; the only person awake was a 
very big, good-looking gendarme, w^ho was 
keeping the stove stoked up, although it 
w^as already suffocatingly hot. The Ser- 



102 A COLD NIGHT RIDE 

bians laugh at me because I declare that 
they always pick their gendarmes for 
their good looks ; they are certainly a 
magnificent set of men. This one inquired 
if I wanted anything, as soon as he saw 
that I was awake, and I asked him if he 
would fetch me my thermos flask full of 
tea, which he would find in Diana's 
saddle-bag. He had never seen a thermos 
flask before, and when he brought it back 
and I shared the tea with him he was 
perfectly thunderstruck to find it still hot. 
He couldn't make it out at all, and seemed 
to think that in some extraordinary way 
Diana must have had something to do 
with it, and I shouldn't be surprised if 
next day he put a bottle of tea in his own 
saddle-bag to see if his horse would be 
equally clever. 



A COLD NIGHT RIDE 103 

About 5 a.m., while it was still dark, I 
woke up again so boiling hot that I could 
not stand it any longer, and crawled out 
cautiously over the sleeping men, treading 
on a good many, I am afraid, though they 
did not seem to object, and took a walk 
round ; but, as it was raining and the mud 
appalling, I did not stay outside long. 
There was one camp fire still going, and 
what I took to be a large bundle covered 
over with a sack beside it. Here's luck, 
I thought, something to sit on beside the 
fire, and down I plumped, but got up 
again quickly when it gave a protesting 
grunt and a heave, and I found I had sat 
down on a man. After that I sat on a 
tin can in the cold passage for some time 
and waited for daybreak. 



H2 



CHAPTER V 



WE SAY GOOD-BYE TO SERBIA AND TAKE TO 
THE ALBANIAN MOUNTAINS 

The next morning we rode on and camped 
at another block-house. The field tele- 
phone was going all the time here, and 
evidently the news was anything but 
satisfactory. I did so heartily wish that 
I knew more Serbian and could under- 
stand more of what was going on. I was 
so keenly interested in what was happen- 
ing and where the various companies 
were and how they were getting on, and 
it was maddening when breathless de- 
spatch riders used to come in from the 

104 



GOOD-BYE TO SERBIA 105 

trenches, and I could only gather a little 
bit of what they were saying, and generally 
miss the vital point. The Commandant 
and his Staff Captain used to pore over 
maps at the table, and, although they 
would not have minded my knowing any- 
thing, of course I could not bother them 
with questions. Sometimes if Comman- 
dant Militch was not busy he used to show 
me the various positions on the map, and 
tell me where he was moving the men to. 
It was such a frightfully anxious time for 
him, he had to hold the threads of every- 
thing in his hands; everything depended 
on him, the lives and safety of all the men, 
and despatch riders and telephone calls 
gave him very little rest. 

On this particular occasion we made an 
unusually sudden start, and he explained 



106 GOOD-BYE TO SERBIA 

to me afterwards, as we were riding along, 
that the Bulgarians had made another of 
their encircling movements, and got round 
our position, and very nearly cut the road 
in front of us, and there was considerable 
probability at one moment that we might 
have to take to the mountains on foot, to 
escape being taken prisoners. However, 
he was able to send some troops round, 
and they succeeded in getting down in 
time to cut them off. Being taken 
prisoner by the wild Bulgarians would 
have been no joke. 

We halted in the afternoon in a field 
where a company was resting, some of the 
Third Call. There are three calls. First, 
Second and Third — the young men, middle- 
aged and the old fellows, who as a general 
rule are only used for light work, guarding 



GOOD-BYE TO SERBIA 107 

bridges, railways, etc., but now had to 
march and do the same as the young men, 
and it came very hard on them. 

The Serbians hve hard and seem to 
age much quicker than our men do, as 
they call a man of forty or forty-five an 
old man, and they look it, too. The 
peasants usually marry very young, about 
twenty ; and as we sat and chatted round 
the fires several of this Third Call told me 
their ages and how many sons they had 
serving in the Army. We camped that 
night in a house in the village, the usual 
room up a flight of wooden steps. These 
houses never seem to have any ground 
floor. I suppose in these disturbed parts 
the inhabitants find it safer to live at the 
top of a ladder. 

The next day the snow had all cleared 



108 GOOD-BYE TO SERBIA 

away, and, strange to say, it was like a 
lovely spring morning. While I was 
drinking a cup of coffee out on the veran- 
dah a young soldier came up and wanted 
to see the Commandant. He looked fear- 
fully thin and ill, and told me that he and 
ten others had had nothing to eat for 
eleven days. I was horror-struck, and 
asked the Staff Captain if such a thing 
could be possible, but what he literally 
meant was that they had been stationed 
somewhere where they had received no 
regular rations, and had had to live by 
their wits or on what the people in the 
village would give them. Be that as it 
may, there was no mistaking the fact 
that he looked very hungry, and I gave 
him a large piece of bread and cheese 
which I had in reserve and some cigarettes. 



GOOD-BYE TO SERBIA 109 

He put the piece of bread and cheese in 
his pocket, and when I asked him why he 
did not eat it then and there said he was 
going to take it back and share it with 
the others ! To see real unselfishness one 
must live through bad times like these 
with men, when everyone shares whatever 
he has. 

We rode on into a filthy, muddy little 
village, where we spent the afternoon. 
I went for a walk up the hill, through a 
company of soldiers who were resting on 
the grass, belonging to some other regiment 
whom I did not know, and coming back 
I was stopped and closely questioned by 
an ofiicer. He did not know who I was, 
and was evidently considerably puzzled. 
He wanted to know where I had been 
and why, and seemed to think that I 




110 GOOD-BYE TO SERBIA 

might have been paying a visit to the 
Bulgarians, who were close on our heels 
as usual. He looked rather incredulous 
when I said that I had only been for a 
walk, and I thought he was going to 
arrest me on the spot pending further 
investigations, until I pointed to the brass 
letter " 2 " on my shoulders, and said I 
was with the Second Regiment, and that 
the Commandant was down in the village. 
Then he let me pass. The Commandant 
had taken the regimental numbers off his 
own epaulettes when I first joined and 
fastened them on the shoulders of his new 
recruit, and I was very proud of them. 
The Commandant was very much amused 
when I told him about it, and told me not 
to go and get shot in mistake for a spy. 
In the evening we rode on by Ockrida 




A COLD HALTING PLACE 
Page 103 




THE BLOCK HOUSE WHERE WE ALL SLEPT 
Page 1 1 o 



GOOD-BYE TO SERBIA 111 

Lake, on and on along the most awful 
roads, with mud up to our horses' knees, 
till we finally came to a building and 
camped in the loft. 

Next morning I rode out with the 
Commandant to inspect the positions. 
There was a battle going on a little way 
away in the hills, and we could hear 
the guns plainly and see the shrapnel 
bursting. There was a lovely view of 
the lake, and on the other side you looked 
away towards the black Albanian hills, 
and we thought as we looked towards 
them that this was the very last scrap of 
Serbia, and that we should soon be driven 
out of it. Coming back we passed a 
company by the roadside, and the Com- 
mandant stopped and talked to them, 
and anyone could see how popular he 



112 GOOD-BYE TO SERBIA 

was, and how pleased they always were 
to see him. He made them a long speech, 
cheering them up and teUing them to 
stand fast now and not despair, as some 
day we would all march back into Serbia 
together. 

We rode to Struga, on the Ockrida 
Lake, that night, and went up to the 
headquarters of the Commandant of the 
division, where we found him and his 
whole staff in bed. The room seemed 
absolutely ftdl up with camp beds and 
sleeping men, but they got up with great 
cheerfulness, put on their boots and 
brushed their moustaches and entertained 
us with tea and coffee till about 1 a.m., 
when we repaired to an empty hotel, 
where there was plenty of room for all, 
for a few hours' sleep. 



GOOD-BYE TO SERBIA 113 

We were routed out long before dawn, 
and after a cup of Turkish coffee in the 
kitchen all turned out into the main street 
of the village of Struga. In the bitterly 
cold grey dawn we stood around in black, 
churned-up mud, shivering, himgry, and 
miserable. The discouraged soldiers 
trailed along the road, in the half-light 
of a winter morning, and altogether we 
looked the most hopelessly forlorn Army 
imaginable, setting our faces towards the 
dark, hard-looking range of snow-capped 
mountains which separate their beloved 
Serbia from Albania. It was the last 
town in Serbia, and we were being driven 
out of it into exile. It made me feel sad 
enough, and what must it have been to 
them, for they are so passionately attached 
to their own country that they never 




114 GOOD-BYE TO SERBIA 

want to leave it, and the Serbian peasant 
feels lost and homesick ten miles from his 
own native village. 

A great deal has been written about 
the physical sufferings of the soldiers at 
this time ; hunger and pain they can 
stand, but this home sickness and despair, 
the feeling that they were friendless, an 
Army in exile, not knowing what had 
become of all their loved ones in Serbia, 
this was what really broke their hearts 
and took the spirit out of them far more 
than their other sufferings. They looked 
upon me almost as one of themselves, 
and officers and men alike used to tell 
me about their homes until I felt almost 
as if it was my own country that had been 
invaded, and that we were being driven 
out of. "I am leaving my youth behind 



GOOD-BYE TO SERBIA 115 

me in Albania," said one young officer to 
me as we sat looking away into the 
stormy Albanian sunset one evening. 
How many of us before we won through 
to the coast were to leave not only our 
youth but our health and some of us our 
lives on those Albanian mountains ! 

Very glad I was that morning to see the 
sun rise and things brighten and warm 
up a little. We rode to a Turkish village 
up on a hill overlooking Struga and the 
lake, and from there we watched the 
bridge burn which connected the Turkish 
quarter of the town with the part held by 
our soldiers, thus delaying the Bulgarian 
pursuit, but not for long. We stayed 
there tw^o or three days with fighting 
going on all around. The Bulgarians kept 
up a heavy bombardment with their big 



116 GOOD-BYE TO SERBIA 

guns over the Struga road, responded to 
by our little antiquated cannon. We 
looked right down on it, and watched the 
shrapnel bursting all day and the enemy 
gradually coming closer. Some of our 
artillery was concealed in a little wood just 
below the village, and presently the enemy 
got the range of this beautifully, and the 
shells were falling fast among the trees. 
The doctor had been down there, and he 
brought me back a piece of shell which had 
fallen right into the middle of the men's 
kitchen and upset all their soup, scattering 
them in all directions, but, w^onderful to 
say, not hurting anybody, and he had 
promised to take me with him next time. 
I was sitting on the wall with the Staff 
Captain watching it and wanted very 
much to go down, but he said I had better 



GOOD-BYE TO SERBIA 117 

not. " Do you mean only I ' had better 
not,' or that I ' am not to ' ? " I enquired 
meekly, having a wholesome respect for 
military discipline by now. " No," he 
said positively, " I mean you are not to." 
So there was nothing more to do but to 
salute and say " Rasumem " ("I under- 
stand "), the Serbian reply to an order. 
I thought it rather hard, however, to be 
chipped afterwards by the officer in com- 
mand down there for not coming down to 
help them and I could not persuade him 
that I had done my best. 

The Turkish inhabitants of the village 
were very friendly, and the old man who 
owned our house used to bring us large 
presents of walnuts. They did not seem 
to like the Bulgarians at all, and explained 
to us by signs that the Bulgarians were 



118 GOOD-BYE TO SERBIA 

bad people and very cruel and would cut 
their throats if they came into the village. 
The villagers used to sit about all day 
watching the shrapnel. They seemed very 
pleased to see us, and several of the children 
used to bring me presents of nuts and 
flowers. They used to look at me with 
great curiosity, and could not quite make 
out who or what I was. I found a couple 
of miserable looking Austrian prisoners 
who were wandering round the village, who 
were too ill to go away with the others and 
had been left behind. 

We left there a few days afterwards at 
three o'clock in the morning and rode down 
to a valley where the Fourteenth Regi- 
ment were camped, and spent the rest of 
the night sitting round their camp fire. 
We looked so funny in the early morning 




GOOD-BYE TO SERBIA 119 

light all squatting round the fire, the 
Commandant included, toasting bits of 
cheese on the ends of pointed sticks ; it 
tasted extremely good washed down by 
some of the Commandant's " Widow's 
Cruse " of liqueur. I wanted to take a 
photograph of us, but the light wasn't 
good enough. Afterwards I curled up by 
the fire with the soldiers and went to sleep, 
and the sun was shining brightly when I 
woke to find the whole regiment sitting up 
with their shirts off busily hunting the 
" first hundred thousand," and I wished I 
could do the same myself. " Shirts off " 
always seemed by unanimous consent to 
be the order of the day directly there was 
a halt for any length of time, and I should 
think there must have been very large 
catches " sometimes. 

12 



120 GOOD-BYE TO SERBIA 

We crossed the frontier through Albania 
that afternoon, and went along a winding 
road up a hill till right at the top you 
looked down on beautiful Lake Ockrida 
and Serbia on one hand and on the other 
barren Albania. Here we halted for a few 
minutes, and sort of said good-bye to 
Serbia, and then rode on in silence into 
the Albanian valley, where we camped at 
a sentry's little hut on a hillock. 

The next day the Commandant took 
me with him for his usual ride up into the 
positions. The hills were very rough and 
steep, but our plucky horses managed it 
all right. We stopped at one Albanian 
village, on the way which was invested by 
some of our troops. These Albanian vil- 
lages were a perfect picture of squalor and 
filth. I don't know what the people 



GOOD-BYE TO SERBIA 121 

subsist on, but they seem to live like ani- 
mals. I had always pictured the Albanian 
peasants as a very fine picturesque race of 
men wearing spotless native costume, and 
slung about with fascinating looking 
daggers and curious weapons of all kinds, 
but the great majority of those I saw, 
more especially in the small towns, were 
a very degenerate looking race indeed. 

We had intended going up to some posi- 
tions which the Fourteenth Regiment were 
holding, and where a battle was then in 
progress, but before we got up there we 
got word that they had had to retreat, 
and saw them coming back down the 
mountain side; so we had to stop where 
the field telephone was rigged up, and the 
Commandant was very busy for a long 
time giving orders, etc. He was away 



122 GOOD-BYE TO SERBIA 

for some time, and I lay down and went 
to sleep on the grass. With their usual 
charming manners a couple of soldiers 
came up, telling me they had a fire over 
there, and one of them fetched his blanket 
and spread it by the fire for me to lie on, 
while the other one rolled up his overcoat 
for a pillow. The Serbian peasant's 
manners are not an acquired thing, de- 
pending upon whether they have been 
well or badly brought up, but seem to be 
natural and part of themselves, and as 
such are always to be depended upon. 
People who do not know anything about 
them have sometimes asked me if I was 
not afraid to go about among what they 
imagine to be a race of wild savages, but 
quite the opposite is the case. I cannot 
imagine anything more unlikely than to 



GOOD-BYE TO SERBIA 123 

be insulted by a Serbian soldier. I should 
feel safer walking through any town or 
village in Serbia at any hour of the night 
than I should in most English or Conti- 
nental towns. 

Coming back in the dark, Diana fell on 
to her head in a ditch, and I rolled off out 
of the way, as I did not want her to lie 
down on top of me, but I got unmerci- 
fully chipped for " falling off." I was 
tired, and had besides a splitting head- 
ache ; so I went and lay down in my tent 
when we got in. My orderly came and 
tucked me up, made me some tea, and 
told the men near not to make a noise, 
and altogether made up for any short- 
comings he might have by being exceed- 
ingly sympathetic. I had not intended 
going in to supper, but he was so per- 



124 GOOD-BYE TO SERBIA 

suasive about it, telling me there was, as 
he expressed it, such a " fine supper," and 
was so anxious for me to have some, that 
I finally went in. About 9.30 p.m. we 
packed up again and rode for a couple of 
hours to another little house, where we 
found some officers, who turned out of 
their beds— which they invited us to sit 
on while they entertained us with tea — 
after which the Commandant, Captain, 
Adjutant and myself turned in thank- 
fully, not for very long, as we had to start 
at 3 a.m. the next morning. 

We rode till daylight, and then camped 
on a hill near the ambulance. There was 
no house here, so the staff borrowed one 
of the ambulance tents, and I pitched my 
little one alongside of it. The Second 
Regiment were camped on the same hill- 



GOOD-BYE TO SERBIA 125 \ 

side, and the next morning the Commander \ 

of the First Battalion, Captain Stoyadi- \ 

novitch, came in to see the Colonel before 
going with his battalion to take up the 
positions. I asked if I might go with 
him, and he said I might ; so I rode off ^ 

with him at the head of the battalion, ^ 

little thinking how long it would be ] 

before I saw the Commandant and his 
staff again, and that was how I came ,j 

afterwards to be attached properly to a ; 

company, and became an ordinary soldier. 




CHAPTER VI 



FIGHTING ON MOUNT CHUKUS 

We rode all that morning, and as the J 
Commander of the battalion, Captain \ 
Stoyadinoviteh, did not speak anything 
but Serbian, nor did any other of the ] 
officers or men, it looked as if I should I 
soon pick it up. The staff had also 1 
shifted their quarters at the same time, 
and while we were riding up a very steep 

hill where Captain S had to go for 

orders Diana's saddle slipped round, and i 
by the time some of the soldiers had fixed j 
it again for me I found he had got his ' 

126 



FIGHTING ON MOUNT CHUKUS 127 

orders and disappeared. I asked some 
of the soldiers which way he had gone, 
and they pointed across some fields ; so 
I went after him as fast as Diana could 
gallop. I met three officers that I knew, 
also running in the same direction, and 
all the men seemed to be going the same 
way too. The officers hesitated about 
letting me come, and said, " Certainly not 
on Diana," who was white and would 
make an easy mark for the enemy ; so I 
jumped off and threw my reins to a 
soldier. 

" Well, can you run fast ? " they said. 

" What, away from the Bulgars ! " I ex- 
claimed in surprise. 

" No, towards them." 

" Yes, of course I can." 

" Well, come on then," and off we went 



128 FIGHTING ON MOUNT CHUKUS 

for a regular steeplechase, down one side 
of a steep hill, splashing and scrambling 
through a torrent at the bottom of it and 
up another one equally steep, a sturdy lieu- 
tenant leading us over all obstacles, at a 
pace which left even all of them gasping, 
and I was thankful that I was wearing 
riding breeches and not skirts, which 
would have certainly been a handicap 
through the bushes. I wondered how fast 
we could go if occasion should arise that 
we ever had to run away from the Bul- 
garians, if we w^ent at that pace towards 
them. Though no one had breath to tell 
me where we were going, it was plain 
enough, as we could hear the firing more 
clearly every moment. We finally came 
to anchor in a ruined Albanian hut in the 
middle of a bare plateau on the top of a 



FIGHTING ON MOUNT CHUKUS 129 

hill, where we found the Commander of the 
battalion there before us, he having ridden 
another way. The Fourth Company, 
whom we had already met once that 
morning, were holding some natural 
trenches a short way farther on, and we 
were not allowed to go any farther. The 
Bulgarians seemed to have got their artil- 
lery fairly close, and the shrapnel was 
bursting pretty thickly all round. We 
sat under the shelter of the wall and 
watched it, though, as it was the only 
building standing up all by itself, it seemed 
to make a pretty good mark, supposing 
they discovered we were there, which 
they did very shortly. An ancient old 
crone, an Albanian woman, barefooted 
and in rags, was wandering about among 
the ruins, and she looked such a poor old 



130 FIGHTING ON MOUNT CHUKUS 

thing that I gave her a few coppers. 
She called down what I took at the time 
to be blessings on my head, but which 
afterwards I had reason to suppose were 
curses. The shells were beginning to fall 
pretty thickly in our neighboiu-hood, and 
our Battalion Commander finally said it 
was time to move on. He proved to be 
right, as three minutes after we left it the 
wall under which we were sitting was 
blow^n to atoms by a shell. My old crone 
had disappeared in the meantime to a 
couple of wooden houses on the edge of 
the wood. We had to cross a piece of 
open ground, which we did in single file, 
to reach this wood, and before we got to 
it we got a whole fusillade of bullets 
whistling round our ears from the friends 
and relations of the old lady upon whom 



FIGHTING ON MOUNT CHUKUS 131 

I had expended my misplaced sympathy 
and coppers. These were the sort of 
tricks the Albanians were constantly play- 
ing on us from the windows of houses, 
whenever they got a chance. 

We got down through the w^ood to 
where we left our horses, waited for the 
Fourth Company to join us, which they 
presently did, and then rode on, halting 
for a time, not far from where some 
of our artillery were shelling the enemy 
down below in the valley. The officer in 
charge showed me how to fire off one of 
the guns when he gave the word, and let me 
take the place of the man who had been 
doing it as long as we stayed there. 

It was dark when we got to our camping 
ground that night, close to where the 
Colonel and his staff were settled, so I sent 



132 FIGHTING ON MOUNT CHUKUS 

for my blankets and tent, which I had 
left with them, and camped with the 
battalion. After a light supper of bowls 
of soup we sat in a circle round the camp 
fire till late, smoking and chatting. The 
w^hole battalion was camped there, in- 
cluding the Fourth Company, with whom 
I had previously spent an evening at their 
camp in the snow, and I thought it very 
jolly being with them again. It did not 
seem quite so jolly, however, the next 
morning, when we were aroused at 3 a.m. 
in pitch dark and pouring rain, everything 
extremely cold and horribly wet, to climb 
into soaking saddles, without any break- 
fast, and ride off goodness knows where to 
take up some new position. 

It was so thick that we could literally 
not see our horses' ears ; I kept as close as 



FIGHTING ON MOUNT CHUKUS 133 

I could behind Captain S , and he 

called out every now and again to know 
if I was still there. We jostled our way 
through crowds of soldiers, all going in the 
same direction up a steep path turned 
into a mountain torrent from the rain, 
with a precipitous rock on the near side, 
which I was told to keep close to, as there 
was a precipice on the other. A figure 
wrapped up in a waterproof cloak loomed 
up beside me in the darkness and proved 
to be the Commander of the Fourth 
Company. He presented me with firstly 
a pull from his flask of cognac, which was 
very grateful and comforting, and secondly 
a pair of warm woollen gloves, which he 
had in reserve, as my hands were wet and 
frozen. This young man had a most 
useful faculty of having a " reserve " of 



134 FIGHTING ON MOUNT CHUKUS 

everything one could possibly want, which 
he always produced just at the right mo- 
ment, when one did want it. He had not 
done four years' incessant campaigning 
without learning everything there was to 
know about it, and prided himself upon 
always having a " reserve," from a tin of 
sardines or a piece of chocolate when you 
were hungry and had nothing to eat, to a 
spare bridle when someone's broke, as 
mine did one day, although he seemed to 
carry no more luggage than anyone else. 
We rode like this till after daylight, and 
then sat on the wet grass under some trees 
and had a plate of beans ; they tasted 
very good then, but I've eaten them so 
often since that now I simply can't look 
a bean in the face. They asked me if I 
was going to tackle the mountain on foot 



FIGHTING ON MOUNT CHUKUS 135 

with them, or if I would rather stay there 
with the transport. I went with them, of 
course. Mount Chukus is 1,790 metres 
high from where we were then, and it 
certainly was a stiff climb. We left our 
horses there — I had been riding a rough 

mountain pony of Captain S 's — and 

the whole battalion started up on foot. 
There was no path most of the way, and 
in places it was so steep that we had to 
scramble along and pull ourselves up by 
the bushes, over the rocks and boulders, 
and in spite of the cold and wet we were 
all dripping with perspiration. We of 
necessity went very slowly, making fre- 
quent halts to recover our breath and let 
the end men catch up, as we did not want 
to lose any stragglers. It must be re- 
membered that not one of these men but 

K2 



136 FIGHTING ON MOUNT CHUKUS 

had at least one old wound received either 
in this or some previous war, and a great 
number had five or six, and this climb 
was calculated to catch anybody in their 
weak spot. 

We arrived at the top about 4 p.m., 
steady travelling since 3 a.m. that morning, 
most of which had been uphill and hard- 
going. One officer with an old wound 
through his chest, and another bullet still 
in his side, just dropped on his face when 
we got to the top, though he had not 
uttered a word of complaint before. 

At the very tip-top we camped amongst 
some pine trees and put up our tents ; it 
was still raining hard and continued to 
do so all that night, and everything was 
soaking — there didn't seem to be a dry 
spot anywhere. The little bivouac tents 



FIGHTING ON MOUNT CHUKUS 137 

are made in four pieces, and each man 
carries one piece, which he wraps round 
him hke a waterproof when he has to 
march in the rain ; and, if it is not con- 
venient to put up tents, rolls himself up 
in it at night. We made fires, though we 
were nearly blinded by the smoke from 
the wet wood ; someone produced some 
bread and cheese and shared it round, and 
then we all turned in. It was so cold and 
wet that I crawled out again about 2 a.m., 
and finished the night by the fire, as did 
three or four more uneasy souls who were 
too cold to sleep. My feet were soaking, 
so I stuck them near the fire and then 
went to sleep, pulling my coat over my 
head to keep off the rain, and it was not 
until some time afterwards that I dis- 
covered that I had burnt the soles nearly 



138 FIGHTING ON MOUNT CHUKUS 

off my boots. I felt hearty sympathy for 
a soldier I heard one day in Durazzo 
being reprimanded by an officer for having 
half his overcoat bm^-nt away — " Do you 
think you were the only one who was cold ? 
Why didn't that man and that man burn 
their clothes? they were just as cold," and 
I thought guiltily of my own burnt boots. 
Later on the next day the sun put in an 
appearance, as did also the Bulgarians. 
The other side of the mountain was very 
steep, and our position dominated a flat 
wooded sort of plateau below, where the 
enemy were. One of our sentries, who was 
posted behind a rock, reported the first 
sight of them, and I went up to see where 
they w^ere, with two of the officers. I 
could not see them plainly at first, but 
they could evidently see our three heads 



FIGHTING ON MOUNT CHUKUS 139 

very plainly. The companies were 
quickly posted in their various positions, 
and I made my way over to the Fourth, 
which was in the first line ; we did not 
need any trenches, as there were heaps of 
rocks for cover, and we laid behind them 
firing by voUey. I had only a revolver 
and no rifle of my own at that time, but 
one of my comrades was quite satisfied to 
lend me his and curl himself up and smoke. 
We all talked in whispers, as if we were 
stalking rabbits, though I could not see 
that it mattered much if the Bulgarians 
did hear us, as they knew exactly where 
we were, as the bullets that came singing 
round one's head directly one stood up 
proved, but they did not seem awfully 
good shots. It is a funny thing about 
rifle fire, that a person's instinct always 




140 FIGHTING ON MOUNT CHUKLS 

seems to be to hunch up his shoulders or 
turn up his coat collar when he is walking 
about, as if it were rain, though the bullet 
you hear whistle past your ears is not the 
one that is going to hit you. I have seen 
heaps of men do this who have been 
through dozens of battles and are not 
afraid of any mortal thing. 

We lay there and fired at them all 
that day, and I took a lot of photographs 
which I wanted very much to turn out 
well; but, alas! duringthe journey through 
Albania the films, together with nearly 
all the others that I took, got wet and 
spoilt. The firing died down at dark, and 
we left the firing line and made innumer- 
able camp fires and sat round them. 
Lieut. Jovitch, the Commander, took me 
into his company, and I was enrolled on 



FIGHTING ON MOUNT CHUKUS 141 

its books, and he seemed to think I might 
be made a corporal pretty soon if I 
behaved myself. We were 221 in the 
Fourth, and were the largest, and, we 
flattered om-selves, the smartest, company 
of the smartest regiment, the first to be 
ready in marching order in the mornings, 
and the quickest to have our tents properly 
pitched and our camp fires going at night. 
Our Company Commander was a hustler, 
very proud of his men, and they were 
devoted to him and would do anything for 
him, and well they might. He was a 
martinet for discipline, but the comfort 
of his men was always his first considera- 
tion ; they came to him for everything, 
and he would have given anyone the coat 
off his back if they had wanted it. A 
good commander makes a good company, 



142 FIGHTING ON MOUNT CHUKUS 

and he could make a dead man get up and 
follow him. 

That evening was very different to the 
previous one. Lieut. Jovitch had a roaring 
fire of pine logs built in a little hollow, 
just below what had been our firing line, 
and he and I and the other two officers 
of the company sat round it and had our 
supper of bread and beans, and after 
that we spread our blankets on spruce 
boughs roimd the fire and roUed up in 
them. It was a most glorious moonlight 
night, with the ground covered with white 
hoar frost, and it looked perfectly lovely 
with all the camp fires twinkling every few 
yards over the hillside among the pine 
trees. I lay on my back looking up at the 
stars, and, when one of them asked me 
what I was thinking about, I told him 



FIGHTING ON MOUNT CHUKUS 143 

that when I was old and decrepit and 
done for, and had to stay in a house and 
not go about any more, I should remember 
my first night with the Fourth Company 
on the top of Mount Chukus. 

The next morning our blankets were all 
covered with frost and the air was nippy, 
but got warmer as the sun got up, and 
one soon gets used to the cold when one 
is always out of doors. 

We took up our positions again behind 
the same line of rocks soon after sunrise. 
In the afternoon the firing got very hot, 
and the Bulgars got a sort of cross fire on, 
so that the bullets were also spitting 
across the plateau where we had our fire 
last night, and they seemed to be getting 
up nearer round another ridge. Our 
cannon were posted somewhere below on 



144 FIGHTING ON MOUNT CHUKUS 

our left commanding the road, and we 
could watch how things were going on 
between them and the Bulgarian artillery 
by the puffs of white smoke. We had a 
few casualties, but not so very many. 

We stayed there all day till dark, and it 
got very cold towards simset, kneeling or 
lying on our tummies ; sometimes we 
just sniped as we liked, and sometimes 
fired by volley as the platoon sergeant 
gave the order, "Ne shanni palli" ("Take 
aim, fire "). I had luckily always been 
used to a rifle, so could do it with the 
others all right. 

One drawback to Chukus was that there 
was very little to eat and no water, or 
at least hardly any, it having to be 
fetched in water-bottles from a long dis- 
tance, or melted down from the snow 



FIGHTING ON MOUNT CHUKUS 145 

which still hung about there in deep drifts. 
We used to fill billy-cans with snow and 
melt it over the fire. The men had long 
ago finished their ration of bread which 
they carried in their knapsacks and only 
had corn cobs, which they roasted over 
the camp fires ; we had also almost rim 
out of cigarettes and tobacco. 

About 9 p.m. the order came to retire ; 
coming up the mountain was bad enough, 
but going down was worse. It was lucky 
there was a moon. We went down a 
different side along a path covered with 
thick slippery mud and very steep, and, 
as I had no nails in my boots and not 
much soles, I found it hard to keep my 
feet. Half-way down we met another 
battalion, and I was delighted to meet 
my old friend whose " Slava day " we 



146 FIGHTING ON MOUNT CHUKUS 

had celebrated on the top of Mount 
Kalabac, and who wanted to know what 
in the world I was doing here. We found 
the horses at the bottom, and then the 
men marched, and I and those of the 
officers who had horses rode all night 
through a long defile in the mountains. 
It was a very narrow track, wath a moim- 
tain up one side and a precipice on the 
other which effectually prevented one from 
giving way to the temptation to go to 
sleep while riding. 

We picked up the rest of the regiment 
soon after daybreak and halted there. 
I already knew nearly all the officers, and 
they all wanted to know^ what I thought 
of Chukus. We sat round the fires for 
some time laughing and joking and then 
all went on to within a few miles of 



FIGHTING ON MOUNT CHUKUS 147 

Elbasan. I thought we were going to 
camp there, but we still had another five 
or six miles' march to the outskirts of 
Elbasan. Since I had joined this com- 
pany we had had a day's fighting, then a 
twelve-hour march, starting at 3 a.m. 
with a cUmb to the top of Chukus thrown 
in, 36 hours' pelting rain, two days' con- 
tinuous fighting, nothing but a few cobs 
to eat, and now had been marching since 
9 o'clock the night before, yet as we 
turned at 5 o'clock in the afternoon into 
the swampy field where we were to camp 
they had enough spirit left to respond to 
their company Commander's appeal, "Now 
then, men, left, right, left, right ; pull your- 
selves together and remember you are 
soldiers," and this was only a sample of 
what they had been doing for weeks past. 



CHAPTER VII 



ELBASAN — WE PUSH ON TOWARDS THE 
COAST 

Next day we had a whole blessed day's 
rest, and the men lay about and rested, 
and everybody washed their shirts and 
generally polished themselves up to the 
best of their ability. Our camp was in a 
bare and very muddy field about two 
miles outside Elbasan. In the afternoon 
Lieut. Jovitch got leave and took me 
with him to Elbasan to see the sights and 
show me what an Albanian town is like. 
It was a filthy little town ; the streets 
paved with big cobble stones and running 

148 




AN ENGLISH WOMAN-SERGEANT IN SERBIA 
THE AUTHOR IN KHAKI 

Page 148 



i 



ELBASAN 149 



rivers of mud. The inhabitants were as 
hostile as they dared to be, and used to 
refuse to sell us anything. They put the 
price of bread up to Frs. 16 a loaf, and 
everything else in proportion, and would 
not sell us any hay for our horses, although 
they had plenty. Although the men were 
not allowed into the town then for fear of 
trouble, they would never forget it, and 
promised themselves to get some of their 
own back whenever they came back that 
way again. Many of the inhabitants 
were wearing Austrian overcoats which 
they had got in exchange for a small piece 
of bread from the starving Austrian 
prisoners who passed through there. Some 
of our men had been given new boots, and, 
while refusing to sell us anything, the 
Albanians would try to tempt them by 



150 ELBASAN 



offering a small loaf in exchange for them, 
and naturally, under the circumstances, 
they sometimes succeeded. 

There was absolutely nothing to see in 
the town, so we sat for a time in the only 
Kafana, or hotel, in the place — a dark, 
dirty little den, with some of the officers 
whom we met, and drank coffee, and later 
in the afternoon galloped back as hard as 
we could to camp through the drenching 
rain. We found our low-lying field afloat, 
and the soldiers had moved to a bit of 
slightly rising ground where it was not 
quite so bad. It was raining so hard and 
everything was so wet that on discovering 
a sort of loft or small room up a ladder 
fourteen officers and myself piled in there. 
Here three of us who had camp beds put 
them up, and the rest slept on the floor. 



ELBASAN 151 



Of course, as a rule camp beds were no 
use to us, as you cannot get a camp bed 
into a bivouac tent. We thought we 
were going to stay there all night, and 
would have plenty of time to sleep, and 
sat about and talked, and some of them 
played cards all night ; so we got a nasty 
jar when at daylight the order came that 
we were all to move to another camp. 
We didn't want any trouble with the 
natives, but the officers had the men well 
in hand, and they marched steadily 
through the town. I rode at the head of 
our company, while the company Com- 
mander dropped back alongside and kept 
his eye on the men ; and we all went 
through without trouble, marching well. 
We camped in an olive grove beside the 
river, and most of us went to sleep. It 

L2 



152 ELBASAN 



still poured all that day and all night and 
all the next night and all the next day. 

I rode into Elbasan again, and paid a 
visit to Commandant Militch and his staff, 
who had taken up quarters in the town. 
They had arrived that morning, and the 
rains had been so heavy since we passed 
that the river had risen and they had had 
to ford it up to their waists. 

We turned out before dawn next 
morning, and it was horribly cold and 
damp ; we had been sleeping on the wet 
ground, there being no hay for the horses 
to eat, and much less for us to sleep on. 
\1^^iad to cross a beautiful old bridge 
over the wide Schkumba River, and there 
was a good deal of delay and waiting 
about. The river had risen, and the 
bridge did not reach quite far enough, so 



ELBASAN 153 



the men had to cross a plank at the other 
end, and it took ages for the whole regi- 
ment to get across. Those who were on 
horseback forded the river, which was not 
very deep, though very wide, with a very 
rapid current. The fields at the other 
side were a swamp, and the men were up 
to their knees in mud and water. 

My company was told off to take up a 
position by itself on a range of hills, and 
we went up there in the afternoon by a 
very bad steep track, through bushes 
with very big prickly thorns. The hills 
were covered with bracken, which we cut 
down to make beds of, and pitched our 
tents in a little hollow. We were all by 
ourselves up there, and had a very quiet 
four days, as we seemed at last to have 
shaken off the pursuing Bulgarians, and 




154 ELBASAN 



it seemed sometimes as if everyone had 
forgotten all about us. We were the only 
company up there, and were a very funny- 
looking camp, with the men sitting about 
resting and repairing their clothes, and 
washing hanging out on all the bushes; 
in fact, we said ourselves that we looked 
more like a travelling gipsies' encampment 
than the smartest company in the regiment. 
Christmas Eve was bright and sunny, 
and in the afternoon we visited an Al- 
banian village. I was an object of great 
curiosity to the inhabitants, especially 
the women, and they always asked Lieut. 
Jovitch whether I was a woman or a 
soldier, and seemed very much puzzled 
when he said I was an Englishwoman but 
a Serbian soldier. We were sitting out- 
side one cottage talking to a very old man 




SERBIAN SOLDIERS. A COLD CAMP 

Page 1 1 4 




ROUND THE CAMP FIRE 
Page 1 54 






I 



ELBASAN 155 



and his wife. Poor old thing, she patted 
me all over, examining everything I had 
on with the deepest interest, and finally 
disappeared into the cottage and came 
out again with a bowl of sour milk and 
some awful-looking bread, of which I ate 
as much as I could, not to hurt her feel- 
ings. We had given the old man some 
money, and I searched my pockets to see 
if I could find anything the old woman 
would like, and finally, feeling rather like 
" Alice in Wonderland " when she " begged 
the acceptance of this elegant thimble," I 
presented her with a small pocket mirror. 
I do not think she had ever seen such a 
thing before, and gazed into it with the 
greatest delight though she looked about 
a hundred and was ugly enough to frighten 
the devil. 



156 ELBASAX 



The Serbian Christmas is not till thir- 
teen days later than ours, but we cele- 
brated my English Christmas Eve over 
the camp fire that night. A plate of 
beans and dry bread had to take the place 
of roast beef and plum pudding, but we 
drank Christmas healths in a small flask 
of cognac, after which I played " God 
Save the King " on the violin, and we all 
stood up and sang it. This violin went 
into my long, narrow kit bag, which was 
carried on a pack-horse and had managed 
to survive its travels, though the damp 
had not improved its tone. In the middle 
of this performance a soldier walked up 
from the town with the news that the 
Allies were advancing and that Scoplye had 
been retaken by the French, and we were 
all fearfully bucked. The men came 



ELBASAN 157 



crowding up to hear the news, and imme- 
diately began making great plans of turn- 
ing roimd and marching straight back into 
Serbia the way we had come, and we sat 
roimd the fire until late, playing and 
singing to celebrate the victory. This 
news afterwards proved to be incorrect, 
but we quite believed it at the time. We 
hardly ever did get any news of the out- 
side world and the doings of one's own 
particular regiment, and more especially 
the varying fortunes of one's own parti- 
cular company, seemed to be the most 
important things in the whole war to us, 
and what may have been passing during 
that time on other and more important 
fronts I did not hear from any reliable 
source until we got to Durazzo, and not 
very much then. The greater part of the 



158 ELBASAN 



Serbian Army who went by the northern 
route through Montenegro to Scutari I 
heard afterwards had an infinitely worse 
time than we did, but we did not hear the 
tale of their sufferings until later, and much 
has already been written about them. 

The next day was Christmas Day, and a 
Serbian journalist who had spent a great 
many years in America walked some 
miles over from his own company to wish 
me a " Merry Christmas," so that I should 
hear the old greeting from someone in 
English. 

We had quite settled down to our 
gipsy life, but the food question had 
become a serious problem by now ; bread 
was at famine prices, the men had finished 
all their corn cobs and had had practically 
nothing to eat for two days. I asked the 



ELBASAN 159 



company Commander if it would be pos- 
sible to buy anything for them, and we 
sent down into the town and bought a sort 
of corn meal for Frs. 200, and had it baked 
into flat loaves there in the town, and next 
day when we turned out for a fresh start 
we gave each man in the company half of 
one of my corn meal loaves and a couple 
of cigarettes, telling them it was England's 
Christmas box to them, which they ate as 
they went along, otherwise they would 
have had to march all that day on nothing. 
As the other companies who had not been 
so fortunate saw our men go past munching 
the last of their corn meal bread they 
called, "Well done. Fourth Company!" 
after us, and wanted to join us. 

For the first time since we had left 
Baboona we had shaken off the Bui- 



L 



160 ELBASAN 



garians and were no longer within sound 
of the guns, but we had to press on or 
the men would starve. 

We had lost hundreds of horses from 
exhaustion and starvation — once they fell 
they were too weak to rise again— and 
their corpses lined the road, or rather 
track. Sick or well, the men had to keep 
on. No one could be carried, and you 
had got to keep on going or die by the 
roadside. 

The next four or five days we continued 
steadily on our way towards Durazzo, 
starting about 4 a.m. and generally turning 
into camp between 6 and 7, long after 
the short winter afternoons had closed in, 
so that we had to find our way round our 
new camping ground in the dark. The 
weather had got considerably warmer, 



ELBASAN 161 



although the nights were still bitterly 
cold, and quite a scorching sun used to 
come out for a few hours in the middle of 
the day, and this took it out of the tired 
men a good deal. Before, when I had 
been working in the hospitals, and I 
used to ask the men where it hurt them, 
I had often been rather puzzled at the 
general reply of the new arrivals, " Sve me 
boli " (" Everything hurts me "), it seemed 
such a vague description and such a curious 
malady; but in these days I learnt to 
understand perfectly what they meant by 
it, when you seem to be nothing but one 
pain from the crown of your aching head 
to the soles of your blistered feet, and I 
thought it was a very good thing that the 
next time I was working in a military 
hospital I should be able to enter into my 



162 ELBASAN 



patient's feelings, and realise that all he 
felt he wanted was to be let alone to sleep 
for about a week and only rouse up for his 
meals. 

We went slowly and halted every few 
hours, sometimes just for a quarter of an 
hour, sometimes for a good deal longer, 
and the moment the halt was called 
everyone used to just drop down on the 
ground and fall asleep till our company 
Commander would call, " Now then, men, 
get up," and we would all pull ourselves 
together, everyone rising immediately 
without the slightest delay. In the long 
midday halt we used to join up with the 
others, and the whole regiment would rest 
together, and exchange any scraps of news 
going. In the evenings the men used to 
sit round the fires and gossip, and every- 



ELBASAN 163 



thing that everybody did or said was dis- 
cussed all through the regiment. News 
always travels like this among Serbians, 
and I have often been astonished after I 
had been away from camp to be told the 
following day exactly where I had been, 
whom I had been with, and what I had 
done. I remember once in Kragujewatz 
when there were some English officers up 
in Belgrade who fondly imagined that 
both their presence and their doings there 
were a dead secret, in the same curious 
way we, in the centre of Serbia, knew all 
about them. 

Our riding horses were some of them so 
starved and exhausted that we could 
hardly keep the poor brutes on their feet, 
and I used to sometimes walk to give 
mine a rest ; but at the same time I should 



164 ELBASAN 



have felt more sympathy with it if it had 
not had a most irritating habit of refusing 
to stand still for a moment, but kept 
wheeling round and round in circles. It 
was a rough mountain pony belonging to 
my company Commander, who, when I 
joined his company, of course, produced 
a " reserve " pony for me. The poor little 
brute died two days after we got to Durazzo. 
One night we halted on rather funny 
camping ground, on the side of a hill 
covered with holly bushes, and had to 
find our way through them in the dark. 
We slept round the fires, as there was not 
room to put up tents among the prickly 
bushes. Our company Commander, tell- 
ing his ordonnance that they were all too 
slow for a funeral, lit our fire himself in 
two minutes under the shelter of a huge 



ELBASAN 165 



holly bush, and we were half-way through 
supper, very comfortably sitting round a 
roaring blaze, while other people were 
still looking for a good spot for their fire, 
and were asleep at opposite sides of ours 
before half the others were well alight. 

At last we were nearing our journey's 
end; it was the last day's march, and an 
unusually long one, too. We passed a 
company of Italian soldiers, and some of 
the officers came up early in the morning 
and visited our camp. Durazzo was being 
bombarded from the sea, and we could 
hear the boom of the big naval guns in 
the distance, but it was all over before we 
arrived. We marched that day from 5 a.m., 
which meant, of course, being up at 
least an hour before, to 8 p.m., with only 
very short and infrequent halts. 



166 ELBASAN 



About dusk we reached Kavaia, and all 
the inhabitants turned out and lined the 
streets to watch us go past. There, again, 
they put up everything to famine prices, 
a tiny flask of cognac which we bought 
costing Frs. 6, in addition to which they 
would only give us three Italian francs 
for our Serbian 10-franc note. 

I never saw anything like the mud in 
Kavaia ; in the town it was a liquid black 
mass, through which men waded far 
above their knees, and on the long road 
between Kavaia and our camping ground 
it was like treacle. It came right above 
the tops of my top boots, and one could 
hardly drag one's feet out of it. The 
road was full of rocks and pits, and every 
two or three yards there were dead and 
dying horses which had floundered down 



ELBASAN 167 



to rise no more ; and it was pitch dark 
and very cold. 

Though not very many miles, it took us 
nearly three hours to do this bit from 
Kavaia to our camp, there being a block 
on the road in front of us, and we were 
absolutely exhausted, when at last we 
saw the camp fires of the First Company 
twinkling on the hillside. We kept push- 
ing on and on, and seemed to be never 
getting any nearer to them ; owing to the 
darkness and the constant blocks caused 
by the narrow approach to our camp, the 
road got frightfully congested. I did the 
latter part of the way on foot, too, and 
began to wonder if those really were camp 
fires ahead of us or sort of will-o'-the-wisps 
getting farther away. At last we turned 
on to the hillside by the sea, which was to 

M2 



168 ELBASAN 



be our resting-place for the next month. 
I was lying on the grass talking to a 
soldier, while my orderly put up my tent. 
He said he was very tired, and I said we 
all were, but would soon be able to turn 
in. " Yes," he said thoughtfully, not 
complaining at all, but merely stating a 
fact, " but you have ridden most of the 
way and I have walked, and presently 
you will have something to eat, and I 
shan't." There was no supper waiting for 
the tired man. In the Austrian Army I 
hear the officers live in luxury while their 
men starve, but that could most certainly 
not be said of our officers — beans and bread, 
and not too much of either, and we had 
bought the bread ourselves. He was 
stoking up the fire a little later on, and I 
called him over and gave him my piece of 



ELBASAN 169 



bread. He shook his head and refused to 
take it at first, saying, "No, you'll need 
that yourself," and not till I had quite 
convinced him that I had enough without 
it would he take it. We all turned in 
dead to the world that night, but very 
glad to have at last reached the coast, and 
I completely forgot that it was New 
Year's Eve, though certainly even had I 
remembered I should not have sat up to 
see the New Year in. 



CHAPTER VIII 



SERBIAN CHRISTMAS DAY AT DURAZZO — 
AEROPLANE RAIDS 

Next day was New Year's Day, and 
everyone came up and wished me a 
Happy New Year, our English New Year, 
that is, as theirs, of course, did not come 
till thirteen days later, and we all hoped 
that the New Year might prove happier 
than the old one had been. 

The whole regiment moved their tents 
up on to the hill and got ship-shape, which, 
of com'se, we had not attempted to do in 
the dark last night. All the men hurried 
up to the top of the hill to have their 

170 



SERBIAN CHRISTMAS DAY 171 

first look at the sea, most of them never 
having seen it before, and they seemed 
never tired of lying gazing at it. The sea 
looked quite close, but in reality there was 
a river and a wide swamp between us and 
it, as I found to my cost one day when I 
tried to go down there to bathe. It was 
lovely weather, and that afternoon the 
band played for the first time, and we all 
sat about, or paid visits to each other's 
tents, and congratulated ourselves that we 
seemed to be nearing the end of our 
troubles, though as a matter of fact many 
poor fellows who had struggled on bravely 
through Albania succumbed in Durazzo, 
and thousands more later on in Corfu from 
the effects of starvation and exposure. 

We were about 10 miles from the town 
of Durazzo, though it did not look 



172 SERBIAN CHRISTMAS DAY 

anything like so far, and we could see it 
plainly at the end of the long line of 
yellow sands jutting out into the sea. 
There were several wrecks round there, 
one of them a Greek steamer, which had 
hit a floating mine. There were a great 
many of these floating mines about, and 
the Austrian submarines were also very 
active, adding immensely to the difficulty 
of getting food and supplies, which all had 
to be brought by sea to the troops. 

A couple of days after I rode into 
Durazzo with three of the officers to see 
the sights of the town. The first sight I 
did see was a real live English sergeant- 
major walking down the street. I could 
hardly believe my eyes, it seemed so long 
since I had seen an Englishman, and I did 
not know there were any there. I almost 



SERBIAN CHRISTMAS DAY 173 

fell on his neck in my excitement, and he 
seemed equally astonished and pleased to 
see a fellow countrywoman. He took me 
up at once to the headquarters of the 
British Adriatic Mission, and fed me on tea 
and cakes, while we were waiting for 

Colonel to come in. The same man 

was also afterwards, strange to say, the 
first man I met in Salonica, as he was 
acting as Captain of the tug which came 
to take us off the French steamer on which 
we had come from Corfu. Afterwards I 

had limch with Colonel and his staff. 

It was the first time for so long that I 
had sat on a chair and eaten my meals off 
a table with a table-cloth that I had almost 
forgotten how to do it. I went back late 
in the afternoon laden with simdry luxuries 
they had given me in the way of butter, 



174 SERBIAN CHRISTMAS DAY 

jam, and a tinned plum pudding, and also 
two loaves of bread which I had bought in 
the town, as in those days when we got 
near a shop we always bought a loaf of 
bread, in the same way that people at 
home would buy cake. 

I rode back with an artillery officer, who 
invited me to lunch next day, the other 
side of Kavaia, and I promised I would 
come if I could borrow a better horse than 
the one I was then riding. The road from 
our camp to Durazzo was in a shocking 
condition, and it was very hard to ride 
along it after dark; there were so many 
dead horses strewn all along it that it 
was a wonder they did not breed a pesti- 
lence. 

On my way to my limcheon party next 
day I met my old friend whose " Slava 



SERBIAN CHRISTMAS DAY 175 

day " we had celebrated on the top of 
Mount Kalabac, and stopped there for 
supper coming back. We had supper by 
the camp fire with an orchestra of two 
Tziganes, who sang and played the Serbian 
airs on their violins. These Tziganes are 
all very musical and would sooner part 
with anything than their violin. Some of 
them play very well, and they can do a 
very difficult thing — sing a song and play 
their own accompaniment with chords on 
the violin at the same time. 

The next day, the men having by now 
had a little time to get rested, there was 
a big parade and inspection, though we 
were a somewhat ragged-looking regiment 
for a full-dress parade. 

On the Serbian Christmas Eve there 
was a great ceremony, which is always 



176 SERBIAN CHRISTMAS DAY 

kept up. Of course, we only kept it on a 
small scale, bu^ I was told that in Bel- 
grade in peace time it was a very splendid 
affair indeed. This was cutting the Christ- 
mas oak. All the officers rode out to a 
wood, where the band played, and there 
was a sort of service conducted by the 
priest, and then we came back carrying a 
small oak tree, and there were refresh- 
ments and much drinking of healths. 

We kept up Christmas festivities for 
three days, and the men had extra 
rations, and all had roast pig, which even 
the very poorest family in Serbia always 
has on Christmas Day. In the evening I 
was invited to dinner with the Colonel of 
the regiment and his staff ; we drank the 
healths of England and Serbia together, 
and kept it up till very late. They put a 



SERBIAN CHRISTMAS DAY 177 

gold coin in their pudding like we put 
things in our English plum puddings, and 
I got the slice containing it. They told 
me it was very lucky, and I always wear 
it now. On Christmas Eve they roast 
nuts like we do on Twelfth Night. It is 
the same date as our Twelfth Night, and 
I was surprised to find that they had 
many of these old customs which are now 
found more in Ireland than in England. 
Although they did their best to make a 
bluff at having a happy Christmas it was 
a very sad and homesick one for them 
really, not knowing in the least where their 
families were spending theirs, or if they 
would ever meet again. 

We had fixed ourselves up pretty com- 
fortably by now. By digging out a 
place about 2 ft. deep, building up the 



178 SERBIAN CHRISTMAS DAY 

earth into a wall all round and pitching 
the tent on to the top of that you can turn 
a small bivouac tent into quite a large and 
commodious abode, which will contain a 
camp bed if you have one and a fireplace 
with an earth chimney for the smoke, and 
when you have a fire going and four or 
five of you are sitting in there no one need 
complain of the cold, even on the coldest 
evening; and the evenings were still very 
cold indeed, although the days were hot. 
I used to ride into Durazzo fairly often 
to see my English friends there, who were 
more than kind and hospitable to me, and 
used to give me many little luxuries to 
take back with which to eke out our 
slender rations, as, njo longer having the 
hard exercise every day to put an edge on 
our appetites, we seemed rather to have 



SERBIAN CHRISTMAS DAY 179 

turned against beans. Though a corporal, 
I always messed with the officers. 

llie British Adriatic Mission were feed- 
ing the Serbian Army, and were doing 
wonders, though owing to the constant 
arrival of fresh troops and the scarcity of 
ovens for baking their bread (although 
they were building fresh ones as fast as 
ever they could) the men were still on 
half rations of bread, and some days had 
to have biscuits instead ; but, of course, the 
men could have eaten a lot more after 
their months of starvation. Among other 
things they had had some coffee given to 
them, but it was not much use, as they had 
no sugar, and the kindly inhabitants of 
Durazzo had made a corner in sugar and 
put the price up to Frs. 16 a kilo ; so it was 
impossible to buy it for them, and I 



180 SERBIAN CHRISTMAS DAY 

racked my brains as to how I could get 
some at least for my own company. I 
asked the head of the B.A.M., but he, of 
course, could not make an exception of 
one particular company, even if it had 
an English corporal (I had been made cor- 
poral on New Year's Day, and promoted 
sergeant three months later), but he said 
he would see what could be done and 
turned the matter over to his Adjutant. 
He, being a young man of resource, went 
to a Red Cross organisation and demanded 
a year's rations of sugar for an English 
nm'se. I do not know what the daily 
ration of sugar for an English nurse may 
be, but, anyhow, one year's worked out at 
a good-sized case, which I brought back 
in triumph (having borrowed a pack- 
horse in Durazzo for that purpose) and 



SERBIAN CHRISTMAS DAY 181 

divided up amongst my company, and 
perfect peace reigned in the camp, the men 
all spending a very happy afternoon sitting 
round their little camp fires, making end- 
less little cups of sweet black Turkish 
coffee. I hope the American Red Cross 
will forgive me for sharing my year's 
rations with belligerents if they should 
ever chance to read this. 

I got myself into sad disgrace one day, 
however, by going away from the camp 
without leave. An officer from another 
battalion was going to limch at another 
camp some miles away, and he invited 
me to ride over with him. We started 
very early in the morning, and, as I could 
not find the Commander of my company 
to ask leave, I just went. We stayed 
there, not only for lunch, but for supper 



182 SERBIAN CHRISTMAS DAY 

and all the evening as well, and I would 
not like to say what time it was when we 
got back. The next morning my company 
Commander pointed out to me one of the 
soldiers up on the hillside doing four 
hours' punishment drill, standing up there 
with his rifle, accoutrements and heavy 
pack in the hot sun, and I was told that 
on this occasion I should be let off with a 
reprimand (although I had been three 
months in the Army and ought to know 
better by this time), but if I did not see 
the error of my ways I should find myself 
doing something similar to that next time, 
or five days' C.B. I got my revenge, 
however, a few days later, when he fell 
sick, and I returned to my original voca- 
tion of nurse. He was a very docile 
patient for a week, though after that he 




SERBIAN SOLDIERS IN THEIR OWN SERBIAN UNIFORMS, 

BEFORE GETTING ENGLISH KHAKI 

Page 183 



SERBIAN CHRISTMAS DAY 183 

suddenly thought it was time to reassert 
his authority, so got up one day when my 
back was turned, and ate everything 
I had not allowed him to eat while in 
bed. 

I had a telegram one day from Durazzo 
from my friend Miss Simmonds, telling me 
to come and meet her in Durazzo at once. 
She and I had worked together in the 
Serbian hospitals ever since the beginning 
of the war, and as soon as she got my 
letter saying I was starting back for 
Serbia she had left New York to join me 
again, but, of course, could not find me, 
as by the time she got to Salonica I had 
disappeared into Albania. She had been 
doing most wonderful work ever since, 
organising relief for Serbian refugees and 
personally conducting shiploads of them 

N 2 



184 SERBIAN CHRISTMAS DAY 

from Salonica to Corsica, Marseilles and 
goodness knows where. Among other 
little odd jobs she discovered a whole 
colony of them in Brindisi who had been 
without food for two days ; so without any 
further red tape proceeded to hire car- 
riages, drive round the town and buy up 
everything in the eatable line which was 
to be had wherewith to feed them. 

I at once borrowed a horse and rode 
out to Durazzo to meet her. I did not 
know in the least where to find her there, 
but most of the people in the town seemed 
to have heard of her, and I finally located 
her at the Serbian Crown Prince's house, 
where she had gone to be presented. He 
was not going to see any more people 
that day, but when he heard that I had 
arrived he very kindly said that he would 



SERBIAN CHUISTMAS DAY 185 

see me too. I was not exactly dressed ta 
be presented to Royalty, as I was still 
wearing the clothes (the only ones I had) 
in which I had come through Albania, 
besides having just had a hot and dusty 
10 mile ride, but that doesn't matter in 
wartime. He was most charming, and 
decorated us both with the Sveti Sava 
medal. 

After that we went on board her ship^ 
in which she was sailing that night with 
1,500 refugees which she was taking 
to Corsica. We had a busy evening, 
and had our work cut out for us 
feeding 1,500 refugees on bully beef and 
biscuits. The ship, which was a small 
Greek one, was simply packed, and it was 
no easy task on the pitch dark decks and 
down in the holds. 



186 SERBIAN CHRISTMAS DAY 

I slept in town that night. One of the 
Enghsh officers was waiting on the quay 
for me when I got back at midnight, and 
he had found me room in an hotel. The 
hotels in Durazzo are the limit, but this 
one did at a pinch. He asked the boy in 
the hotel if he could make us some tea. 
He said he could as far as the boiling water 
went, but he had neither tea nor sugar. A 
Serbian offioer, a stranger to us both, who 
happened to be passing on his way to bed, 
overheard this, and immediately said he 
had both tea and sugar, which he would 
give us ; and not only did he do this, but 
came back afterwards and apologised for 
not having any cognac to put into it. As 
my friend remarked, " Really the Serbians 
do give us points in the way of manners ; 
here is a man who, not satisfied with 



SERBIAN CHRISTMAS DAY 187 

seeing to the comfort of two people who 
are total strangers to him, and providing 
them with his own tea and sugar, comes 
back and actually apologises because he 
has not cognac as well ! " 

The next morning I went round to the 
British Adriatic Mission, and while I was 
having breakfast there there was a most 
terrific crash, followed by others in quick 
succession. I left my breakfast and went 
out into the street to see what was to be 
seen. Five Austrian aeroplanes were circ- 
ling round and round overhead, apparently 
dropping bombs as fast as they could. 
The streets of Durazzo are very, very 
narrow, and the town is very small 
and very crowded. People were running 
as hard as they could to get out of the 
way — at least, the Italians were running, 



188 SERBIAN CHRISTMAS DAY 

the Serbians always thought it beneath 
their dignity to do so. I was standing 
with a Serbian artillery officer who knew 
all about it and could almost always 
guess pretty well where they were going 
to fall. Looking up into the clear blue 
sky you could see the bombs quite well 
as they left the aeroplanes : first of all 
they looked like a silvery streak of light, 
and then like a thin streak of mist falling 
through the sky, till they hit some building 
with a crash, smothering everyone in the 
neighbourhood with a powdery white dust. 
Two of them fell in almost identically 
the same spot at the end of the street 
about a hundred yards from us, and 
several more round about. Another 
officer joined us presently who was very 
much annoyed because he was in the 



SERBIAN CHRISTMAS DAY 189 

middle of being shaved when the first 
bomb fell, and the Italian barber had, 
without more ado, instantly dropped his 
razor and fled, so that he had to come 
out with only half his face shaved. He 
was rather glad afterwards, however, when 
he found out that had the barber re- 
mained he would have had no face left to 
shave, as when we walked back to the 
shop we found that a bomb had gone 
clean through the roof and the barber was 
standing outside anathematising aeroplanes 
for ruining his business. Altogether they 
dropped twenty-five bombs in about a 
quarter of an hour within a radius of a 
little over a quarter of a mile and killed a 
good many people. 

There was a wide subterranean drain 
leading from the town to the sea, and down 



190 SERBIAN CHRISTMAS DAY 

this hundreds of Itahans crawled, but I 
think if I were given the choice of crawHng 
down a Durazzo drain in close proximity 
to some hundreds of the natives of that 
town or being killed by a bomb I would 
choose the latter. One day previously 
some bombs had fallen in the neighbour- 
hood of a camp of Italian soldiers, who 
had to vacate it. A company of hungry 
Serbians near by had with great pre- 
sence of mind seized the opportunity 
to go in and clear the deserted camp 
of all the bread and everything eatable 
it contained, and they were heard to 
express a wish afterwards that there 
might be a visitation of aeroplanes every 
day. When it was all over I went back 
again, and, finding the headquarters of 
the British Adriatic Mission still stand- 



SERBIAN CHRISTMAS DAY 191 

ing, sat down to a fresh lot of bacon and 
eggs for breakfast, such luxuries not being 
obtainable every day. 



CHAPTER IX 



WE GO TO CORFU 

We remained near Durazzo for a month, 
the men resting and recuperating after 
their hard time. 

There were a lot of young recruits who 
had been brought through with the Army 
from Serbia, but who had not yet been 
formally sworn in, and one morning this 
ceremony took place. The whole regi- 
ment was formed up in a square in the 
centre of which stood the priest with a 
table in front of him, on which were a 
bowl of holy water, with a bunch of leaves 

192 



WE GO TO CORFU 193 

beside it, a Serbian Bible, and a large 
brass cross. All the officers were drawn 
up in a double line facing the table, and 
the recruits behind them again, with the 
whole regiment forming the other two 
sides of the square and the band a little 
way behind. 

The priest read a sort of short service, 
and then the flag-bearer carried the regi- 
mental flag up to the table while the band 
played. After that the priest walked all 
down the line of officers with the basin of 
holy water in his hand, and dipping the 
bunch of leaves into it sprinkled them each 
on the forehead and held up the cross for 
them to kiss ; when that was over the 
swearing in of the new recruits began, and, 
as I had not yet been sworn in, I was one 
of them. We all stood at the salute and 



194 WE GO TO CORFU 

repeated the oath all together, sentence 
by sentence after the priest, swearing 
loyalty to Serbia and King Peter, and 
after that we marched in single file past 
the table, removing our caps as we did so 
for the priest to sprinkle our foreheads, 
and then kissed the cross, the priest's 
hand, and, last of all, the regimental flag. 
It was a very impressive ceremony, wind- 
ing up by the band playing the Serbian 
National Anthem while we stood at the 
salute. 

All the officers came up and shook 
hands with me afterwards and congratu- 
lated me on now being properly enrolled 
as a soldier in the Serbian Army. 

We were getting very tired of the 
Adriatic coast, and now that we were 
feeling rested again we were anxious to 



WE GO TO CORFU 195 

be once more on the move and take the 
next step towards getting back to Serbia. 
Speculation was rife as to where we were 
going to be sent to be reorganised and 
refitted; no one knew for certain, and 
there were the wildest rumours about 
Algiers, France, or Alexandria, but at last 
the glad news came that we were really- 
going, and to Corfu. 

But there was still a six or seven days' 
march to Vallona, where the regiment was 
to embark. Doctors came round and 
every man was medically examined to see 
if he was fit for the march, as those who 
were not were to be embarked at Durazzo. 
We had heard that the road to Vallona 
was very bad, and in some places knee- 
deep in mud and water, and nobody was 
very anxious for the march if he could 



196 WE GO TO CORFU 

go from Durazzo, so one and all declared 
that they had rheumatism or else sore feet; 
but eventually only a small percentage, 
among them sixty men from the Fourth 
Company, and about half a dozen officers, 
from the regiment were declared to be 
unfit. I was perfectly fit, but, as I was 
told I might do whichever I liked, I 
thought I might as well embark at Durazzo 
with those from my own company ; so 
on the 3rd of February we left our camp 
and went into Durazzo to wait for the 
steamer, as it was uncertain which day 
she would sail. 

I and some of the officers who were not 
on duty took rooms in the town, and there 
we had to wait for four days. We found 
some difficulty in feeding ourselves; there 
seemed to be hardly anything to buy, and 



WE GO TO CORFU 197 

what there was was at famine prices, and 
our Serbian 10-franc notes were only 
worth three and a half Greek or Italian 
francs. We had to pay 50 francs for a 
bottle of common red wine, which any- 
where else would have cost a franc. One 
day some Italian doctors invited us to 
lunch at their hospital; they were most 
excellent hosts, and it was a very large 
and merry luncheon party. Hardly any 
two people could talk the same language, 
and English, French, German, Spanish, 
Italian and Serbian got all mixed up 
together into a sort of Esperanto of our 
own. 

Every day as regularly as clockwork, 
between half-past ten and eleven, we 
had an Austrian aeroplane raid, and 
occasionally in the afternoon as well, and 



198 WE GO TO CORFU 

we got so used to them that if we did not 
hear the first bomb in time we used to 
gaze up into the sky and wonder why they 
were so late, but the worst raid was when 
we were actually embarking. 

Embarking is always a tedious business, 
and is always inseparably connected in my 
mind with hours of standing about on your 
own weary feet, like a flock of tired sheep, 
in weather that is always either too hot 
or too cold, or else raining, patiently 
waiting for orders. 

We were embarked on large flat barges, 
and sent off to two or three small Italian 
steamers in the harbour. The one that 
I was on was crammed with men, and we 
had just got alongside the steamer when 
an aeroplane came exactly overhead. We 
made a fairly big mark with the large 



WE GO TO CORFU 199 

crowded barge alongside the steamer, and 
it passed over us three times, dropping 
bombs all around as if they were shelling 
peas. Backwards and forwards it came, 
columns of water shooting up, now 50 yards 
to the right, now a little to the left, showing 
where the bombs hit the water harmlessly, 
one of them barely clearing a hospital 
ship at anchor. Every moment it seemed 
as if the next one must drop in the middle 
of our barge, but we were pretty well 
seasoned to anything by now, and, what- 
ever may have been our inside feelings, we 
sat still and stolidly watched sudden death 
hovering over our heads in the blue sky, 
but it didn't seem somehow like playing 
the game when we couldn't retaliate at all. 
The Captain of the Italian steamer got 
so exasperated that he shouted that he 

02 



200 WE GO TO CORFU 

was not going to have his steamer sunk on 
our account, and that we were to sheer off, 
as he would not take us on board at all; 
so our tug towed us back to the pier for 
further orders, and we were eventually 
sent off to another steamer. 

I and the two officers I was with in the 
end foimd ourselves embarked on one 
steamer, with most of the men from our 
own regiment on another, and our servants 
and all our luggage on a third. By that 
time it was about 1 o'clock, and, as we 
had been standing about in the hot sun 
since 5 a.m. and had had nothing to eat, 
we began to feel as if we should like some 
breakfast; so we were any thing but pleased 
to be told upon enquiry that nobody could 
get anything to eat on that ship, neither 
officers nor men. 



WE GO TO CORFU 201 

" Now then, Corporal," said my com- 
pany Commander to me," you talk French; 
go and see what you can do." So I 
obediently went off to hunt up the Military 
Commander of the ship. He first informed 
me that there was no food on the boat, 
and that nobody could get anything until 
8 o'clock that evening, and seemed to 
be inclined to let the matter go at that, 
but I was not going to take that answer 
back if I could help it ; so told him that I 
didn't think much of his way of treating his 
English Allies, whereupon, having turned 
that over in his mind, he said I could have 
something alone. Of course that was no 
use; so after a little more persuasion I 
finally got him to order the steward to 
serve dinner to the two officers and myself 
in the saloon in about an hour as soon as 



202 WE GO TO CORFU 

it could be got ready, and while waiting 
for it we could have some coffee, if I could 
get anybody to make it for me. I accor- 
dingly went round to the galley and inter- 
viewed the cook, who informed me that 
the man who made the coffee was asleep 
in his bunk and I couldn't wake him. 

" Oh, can't I ? " I said (in the words of 
the man when told by the steward that 
he could not be sick in the saloon), '' you'll 
see if I can't." 

" Are you an officer ? " he inquired, 
with that sort of veiled impertinence that 
the lower class Italians and Greeks are such 
past-masters of. 

" No, I am not," I snapped, " I am a 
corporal ; now which is that coffee-man's 
cabin ? " and, on it being pointed out to 
me, I beat such a devil's tattoo on the door 



WE GO TO CORFU 203 

with my riding- whip that in half a minute 
a very tousled and sleepy head appeared, 
and enquired what on earth was the matter. 
I told him I wanted three cups of coffee 
in the saloon at once, and he was so as- 
tonished that he got up forthwith and 
made them, and I went back in triumph 
to report, and felt rewarded on being told 
that I had done very well. 

The next morning we were transferred 
in Vallona harbour on to a big Italian 
steamer, a fine boat, where they treated 
us very well. We reached Corfu about 
1 a.m., and disembarking began there and 
then. We hung on till the last, as we had 
nowhere to spend the night, our tents, 
blankets, etc., being on another boat, and I 
had not even an overcoat with me and it was 
very cold, but at 3 a.m. we also had to go. 



204 WE GO TO CORFU 

We had been looking forward to Corfu 
as a sort of land flowing with milk and 
honey, with a magnificent climate and 
everything that was good, but our ardour 
was rather damped when we landed at 
that hour at a small quay, feet deep in 
mud, miles away from the town, and 
about 8 miles away from our camp, so 
we were told. We did not know in which 
direction our camp was, and, even had we 
got there, would have been no better off 
without a tent or blankets; so we spent 
the remainder of the night sitting on a 
packing-case beside the sentry's fire, and 
I was glad enough to be able to borrow an 
overcoat from the Serbian officer in charge 
of the quay, who was just going off duty. 

There was one of the most beautiful 
sunrises I have ever seen, but under some 



WE GO TO CORFU 205 

circumstances you feel you would most 
willingly barter the most gorgeous pano- 
rama of scenery for a cup of hot tea. 

We had a long, hot walk the next morning 
till we found our own division, where the 
sixty men from our company were camped 
pending the arrival of the Commandant 
of the regiment and the rest who were 
coming via Vallona. 

Corfu may be a lovely climate and a 
health resort and everything else that is 
delightful at any other time in the year, 
but it was a bitter blow to us when it 
rained for about six weeks without stopping 
after our arrival, added to which there was 
no wood, and camp fires were forbidden, 
I suppose for fear that the men might 
take to cuttinop down the olive trees with 
which the island is covered. There was 



206 WE GO TO CORFU 

no hay at first for us to sleep on, and the 
incessant wet, combined with the effects 
of bully beef, on men whose stomachs were 
absolutely destroyed by months of semi- 
starvation was largely responsible for the 
terrible amount of sickness and very high 
mortality among the troops during the first 
month of our stay there. This was espe- 
cially the case among the boys and young 
recruits, who, less hardy than the trained 
soldiers, were completely broken down by 
their late hardships and died by thousands 
on the hospital island of Vido. They could 
not be buried in the small island, dying 
as they were at the rate of 150 a day, and 
the bodies were taken out to sea. The 
Serbs are not a maritime nation, and the 
idea of a burial at sea is repugnant to 
them. I heard one touching story. An 



WE GO TO CORFU 207 



old man came to the island to see his son, 
but he had died the day before. " Where 
is his grave ? " he asked, " that I may tell 
my old wife I saw his last resting-place. 
We had seven sons ; six were killed in the 
war, and he was the seventh and youngest." 
The kind-hearted doctor lied bravely and 
well. " That is it," he said, pointing to 
a little wooden cross among a few others, 
where some graves had been made one 
day when it was too rough for the tug to 
call. How could he tell the poor old 
father that even then his son's body was 
lying out on the wooden jetty waiting to 
be carried out to his nameless grave in 
the blue Ionian Sea ? 

We found there had been some hitch in 
the commissariat arrangements, and there 
was no food for oiu' sixty men. We bought 



208 WE GO TO CORFU 

them some bread next day, but bread was 
3 francs a loaf, and a third of a loaf 
to a man with nothing else was not enough 
to keep them going, while endless red tape 
was being unwound before their proper 
rations came along. They never made a 
complaint; but, though we could have 
bought bread for ourselves, it nearly choked 
us with the men standing round silently 
watching and wondering what w^e were 
going to do for them. 

On the second morning, seeing an empty 
motor-lorry coming along, I had a sudden 
inspiration and boarded it, dashing down 
the steep bank to the road, telling them 
that I would be back in the evening from 
town with something for them, and taking 
an orderly with me. It was about fifteen 
miles' drive into the town of Corfu, and I 



WE GO TO CORFU 209 

tramped about all day in the pouring rain 
from one official to another, from the 
English to the French, from the French to 
the Serbians, and back again to the French, 
till I was heartily sick of it, and had I 
had the money would have bought the 
stuff in the town and had done with it. 
There was plenty of bread at the bakery, 
but, of course, they could not give it to me 
without a proper requisition, which appa- 
rently I could not sign because I was not 
authorised to do so. It was getting to- 
wards evening, and I was beginning to 
despair, and was thinking of doing the 
best I could with a hundred francs I 
had borrowed, when I thought I would 
have one more try with the French 
authorities. I was wet through myself, 
as I had had no time to stop for a coat 



210 WE GO TO CORFU 

when the lorry came along, and had been 
too busy and too worried to get anything 
to eat all day, but anyhow this time I 
managed to pitch them such a pitiful tale 
of woe about the sufferings of the men, 
and the awful time I was having trying to 
get them something to eat, that I quite 
softened their hearts, and they said they 
would give me what I wanted without any 
further signature, but that I must not 
make a precedent of this unofficial way of 
doing business. I was overjoyed, and sent 
my orderly off at once to hunt up a carriage, 
and we retiu^ned to camp in triumph about 
9 o'clock with a whole sackful of bread, 
another of tinned beef, and two large 
earthenware jars of wine, which I bought 
on the way. There were plenty of the 
men waiting, when they heard my carriage 



WE GO TO CORFU 211 

arrive, to dash down to the road and carry 
the stuff up to the camp, and there was 
great rejoicing over the success of my 
expedition. I was soon warm and dry and 
having some supper myself. The men were 
all right so far, but another day's short 
rations would certainly have seen some of 
them sick. 

The question of transport was fearfully 
difficult, and the French and English 
authorities were working night and day to 
feed the troops, and, of course, they could 
never have got through the work if things 
had not been done in order ; so I was duly 
grateful that under the special circum- 
stances they let me carry out such an 
unauthorised raid. 

About a week later the rest of the com- 
pany arrived about 10 o'clock one evening, 



212 WE GO TO CORFU 

and a sergeant proudly told me that our 
Fourth Company were all very fit and not 
a man sick or fallen out. 

We moved to another camp up in 
the hills, a nice place, but very far from 
anywhere, though I found that I could 
get about anywhere I wanted to on the 
motor-lorries which used to come in with 
bread. The A.S.C. drivers of these lorries 
must have had a hard time at first ; the 
roads were very bad and the weather 
shocking, and they were working sixteen 
hours a day carrying supplies, but they 
were full of pity for the deplorable con- 
dition of the Serbian soldiers, and were 
willingly working night and day to alleviate 
it. 

One of the English officers gave me a 
small Italian tent in place of the little 



WE GO TO CORFU 213 

Serbian bivouac one I had been sleeping 
in. It was a capital little tent, very 
light and absolutely waterproof. My 
orderly built a foundation of stones about 
2 ft. high, with the chinks filled in with 
earth, and pitched the tent on the top 
of that, so that it was quite high enough 
to stand up in and also to hold a camp 
bed and a rubber bath, and he then made 
a nice little garden and planted it with 
shrubs and flowers, with a little wall all 
round ornamented with red bully-beef 
tins with plants in them, and it looked 
awfully nice. 

The thing we missed most was not being 
able to have any fires to sit round. One 
day I came back on a lorry containing a 
load of wood intended for somewhere 
else, but I had got past any scruples 



214 WE GO TO CORFU 

about commandeering anything where my 
own company was concerned; so I per- 
suaded the driver to drop a few big logs 
off on the road at the nearest point to 
our camp, and we had at least one small 
fire for some time afterwards, and any- 
body who liked could come and boil his 
billy-can and make his tea at that. 

The Serbian Relief Fund was short- 
handed and very busy, and I obtained 
permission to leave the camp for a few 
weeks and take up my quarters in town 
to give them a hand. Several shiploads 
of stuff had just come in, and everything 
had to be landed on the quay on lighters 
and then removed from there at once, as 
the quay could not be blocked up, to one 
or other of their two store-houses, w^hich 
were at opposite ends of the harbour. One 



WE GO TO CORFU 215 

of these store-houses had only just been 
acquired, and, as it was about 6 in. deep 
in coal dust, it had all to be scrubbed and 
cleaned out for the arrival of fresh bales, 
and that was my first job. I got a gang 
of Serbian soldiers, and we had a strenuous 
day's work with the very inefficient tools 
at our disposal, but we managed by the 
evening to get everything ship-shape and 
the floors clean, though we all got rather 
damp and coal-dusty in the process. 

The quay was a most interesting place, 
though I should have enjoyed the work 
more if it had not poured steadily all day 
and every day, as there was no cover 
anywhere. French, English, and Serbians 
were all working there together, each 
trying to be the first to seize upon labour 
and transport both by water and land for 

P2 



216 WE GO TO CORFU 

the particular job he was responsible 
for. There were a number of ships in 
the harbour waiting to be unloaded, and 
everyone was working as hard as he 
could, and things were considerably com- 
plicated by the fact that hardly one of 
them could speak the other's language. 
It was quite a usual thing to find an 
Englishman, who could not speak French, 
trying to explain to a French official 
that he wanted a fatigue party of Serbian 
soldiers to unload a certain lighter, and 
neither of them being able to explain 
to the said fatigue party, when they had 
got them, what it was they wanted them 
to do. 

There was always a company of Serbian 
soldiers for work on the quay, and a fresh 
relay of men came on at 6 a.m., at midday. 



WE GO TO CORFU 217 

and at 6 p.m., and you had to be there 
sharp on time if you wanted your men, 
or else you would find they had all been 
snapped up by someone else. As I could 
speak French and enough Serbian to get 
along very well, most of my work was on 
the quay, and I was often called in to act 
as interpreter. As I did not want to get 
down there at 6 a.m., however, I got a 
friendly English corporal, who had to be 
on duty then, to get twice as many men 
as he wanted himself, and then give me 
half of them when I came down. I was 
rather afraid of the English Tommies at 
first, and thought they would be sure to 
laugh at a woman corporal, but, on the 
contrary, there was nothing they would 
not do to help me, and the French soldiers 
were just the same. 



218 WE GO TO CORFU 

I was superintending the unloading of 
some goods from a lighter one day, which 
all had to be transferred to another lighter, 
and taken across to the warehouse that 
evening. We were all very tired and wet, 
and the men were slacking off, and it 
didn't seem, at the rate we were going on, 
as if we should get through before 9 or 
10 o'clock that night. The Serbian ser- 
geant tried to buck them up, but the men 
were fed up and were just doing about as 
little as they possibly could. It is worse 
than useless to bully a Serbian soldier if 
he doesn't want to do anything ; so, as I 
wanted to get back to the hotel to dinner, 
I went on quite another tack. I told 
them I had been working for them all day 
since early in the morning, and was tired 
and hungry, and that if they were going 



WE GO TO CORFU 219 

to spend another three hours over the job 
I should get no dinner. The effect was 
magical. They all at once got terribly 
worried on my account, began to work 
like steam, and in an hour we had the whole 
thing done, and they were enquiring in a 
brotherly manner if it was all right, and 
if I would be in time for dinner now. 

All these poor fellows working down on 
the quay had had their uniforms taken 
away from them and burnt, and had been 
provided with a blue corduroy suit for 
working in. Their old ones, though dirty, 
were warm, and their new ones were very 
thin, and in most cases they had hardly 
any underclothes; so whenever I had a 
gang of men working under me down at 
the warehouse I used to fit them out with 
warm sweaters, etc., of which we had 



220 WE GO TO CORFU 

plenty, out of one of the broken bales. 
I used to make them work hard for a couple 
of hours, and then sit down for five minutes 
and have a cigarette, and then go on again 
for another hard spell. The Serbian ser- 
geants used to be very much amused at 
my methods, but I always found they 
answered very well. They were always 
keen to be on my gang, and everyone said 
I got more work out of them than anyone 
else could. 

There were a lot of new English 
uniforms, but the French authorities 
would not issue them unless there were 
enough underclothes to go with them, 
and these they were short of. However, 
I got a promise of underclothes from the 
Serbian Relief Fund, and then my troubles 
began. First I had to get a paper signed 




OFFICERS SITTING OUTSIDE MY TENT 

Paze 220 




COLONEL MILITCH ON DIANA 

Page 244 



WE GO TO CORFU 221 

by the English saying they would give 
them if the French approved ; then 
another, signed by the French, that they 
did approve and would give the uniforms ; 
then one signed by the Serbian Minister 
of War ; then back to the French again 
to be countersigned ; then back to the 
Minister of War ; then to the Serbian 
warehouse, who refused to give them 
because I hadn't got somebody else's 
signature, and so on and so on. To 
cut a long story short, it took three whole 
days walking round Corfu in the pouring 
rain before I could get all those papers 
sufficiently signed, including three visits 
to the Minister of War, and even then the 
transport remained to be found, as the 
motor-lorries were fully occupied carrying 
bread. 



222 WE GO TO CORFU 

I had airily promised the French that 
I thought the EngHsh authorities could 
gtve me the transport; so I went up to 
them, and they said they would see what 
they could do. 

" How much stuff have you ? " inquired 
the officer in charge. 

" Three thousand two hundred and fifty 
uniforms," I replied, " and the same 
number of vests and pants." 

" Well, that doesn't tell me anything," 
he said ; " I want to know the bulk and 
weight : you're no good as a corporal if 
you can't tell me that. Let me know 
exactly by eleven o'clock to-morrow morn- 
ing, and I'll see what I can do." 

Here was a poser, for, though I said at 
once that I would let him know, I had not 
the faintest idea of how to work it out ; 



WE GO TO CORFU 223 

but fortunately bethought myself of my 
sheet anchor, the big English corporal 
on the quay, who always seemed to be 
able to solve any difficulty ; and, sure 
enough, he did it for me, and I telephoned 
the required information. In the end I 
got the stuff loaded on to a barge and took 
it myself to a point about 2 miles from 
my camp, whence it was carried up by a 
company, and we had the proud distinc- 
tion of being the first regiment to be fitted 
out in new, clean English khaki uniforms. 
When not on the quay there was plenty 
to do in the warehouses, sorting out the 
bales, or taking them across the harbour 
in our little tug, which was quite a journey, 
but I eventually got a chill and had to 
lay off for a bit, as the result of one 
wetting too many. 



224 WE GO TO CORFU 

I used to go back to camp every 
Saturday afternoon and Sunday, and I 
always managed to take up a couple of 
cases of something, generally given me 
by the Serbian Relief Fund ; either things 
for the ambulance or condensed milk or 
golden syrup for the men. Condensed 
milk was very much appreciated, as it 
meant that they each got a big bowl of 
cafe au lait for breakfast for three morn- 
ings, whereas, as a rule, they don't have 
anything until lunch. 

One day an incident occurred which 
touched me very greatly. The non-com- 
missioned officers and men of the Fourth 
Company formed a committee among 
themselves and drew up an address, 
which they presented me with, and which 
a man in the regiment who knew English 



WE GO TO CORFU 225 

afterwards translated for me as literally 
as possible. An English major, to whom 
I once showed it, told me if that were his 
he should value it more than a whole 
string of medals, and as that is how I 
feel about it, coming as it did spon- 
taneously from my own men, I put the 
translation in here : 

" To the high-esteemed 
"MISS FLORA SANDES, 

" CORFU. 

" Esteemed Miss Sandes ! 

" Soldiers of the Fourth Company, 
1st Battalion, 2nd Inf. Rgmt., ' Knjaza 
Michaila,' Moravian Division, 1st (Call) 
Reserves ; touched with your nobleness, 
wish with this letter to pay their respects 
— and thankfulness to you ; have chosen 




226 WE GO TO CORFU 

a committee to hand to you this letter of 
thankfuhiess. 

" Miss Sandes ! 

" Serbian soldier is proud because in 
his midst he sees a noble daughter of 
England, whose people is an old Serbian 
friend, and to-day their armies are arm- 
in-arm fighting for common idea, and you 
Miss Sandes should be proud that you 
are in position to do a good, to help a 
Serbian soldier — Serbian soldier will 
always respect acts of your kindness 
and deep down in his heart will write 
you kind acts and remember them for 
ever. 

" Few months have passed since you 
came among us, and you shared good and 
bad with us. During this time you have 
often helped us to pass through hard- 



WE GO TO CORFU 227 

ships, buying food for us, and finan- 
cially. 

" Thanking you in the name of all 
the soldiers, we are greeting you with 
exclamation : 

" Long life to our ally England, 
" Long life to Serbia, 
" Long life to their heroic Armies, 
" Long life to noble Miss Sandes ! 
" Naredniks (Sergeant- Majors) — 
" Milcontije Simitch 
" Rangel Miloshevitch 
" Podnaredniks {Sergeants)— 

" Milisav Stamenkovitch 
" Yanatchko Todorovitch 
" Bozidar Milenkovitch 
" Kaplars (Corporals) — 

" Vladimar Stankovitch 
" Milan Jovanovitch 



I 



228 WE GO TO CORFU 

" Dragutin Rangjelovitch 
" Aleksa Miloshevitch 
" Zaphir Arsitch 
" Vojnitsi (Soldiers) — 

" Milivoye Pavlovitch 
" Milorad Taskavitch 
" Rangel Mladenovitch 
" Dragoljub Milovanovitch 
'* Alexandar Iwkovitch 
" 4th Comp., 1st Battl., 2nd Inf. Rgt. 
" No. 1024 (Official Stamp). 
" To Miss Sandes, Corporal, volunteer of 
this Comp.— 

" Please receive this little, but from 
heart of my soldiers, declaration of thank- 
fulness for all (for help) that you have 
done for them until now, and in time, 
when they are far away from dear ones 
and loving ones at home. 



M 



WE GO TO CORFU 229 

" To their wishes and declaration I am 
adding mine and exclaim : 

" Long life to our dear ally England, 
" Long life to heroic Serbian Army, 

" Commander of the Company, 

" Janachko a. Jovitch. 
" 13/26 February, 1916. 
" Ipsos (Corfu)." 



CHAPTER X 



THE " SLAVA DAY " OF THE SECOND 
REGIMENT 

The companies used to take turns at 
working at the ports for about three weeks, 
and when our turn came the men were 
very pleased, as they much preferred it to 
doing drill, and they were able to occa- 
sionally get into the town also. We were 
camped about a mile and a half outside 
the town, but I thought it was the nastiest 
camp that I had ever been in — a very 
small crowded piece of ground with no 
shade, so that when the weather was hot 
we were perfectly roasted, and when it 

230 



" SLAVA DAY " 231 

was wet, when you tried to climb up the 
narrow steep path to it, you shpped back 
two steps for one you went up, in the 
thick sHppery mud. 

I gave up my room in town, as our 
camp was close enough to walk to. I 
could make myself understood pretty well 
in Serbian by now, though, of course, I 
made awful mistakes, as it is by far the 
most difficult language I have ever come 
across to learn, there being no books to 
help one. One can only pick it up by ear ; 
so it is no wonder if I was occasionally 
misunderstood. 

One day I told my orderly to go and 
fetch my thick coat, which he would find 
on a chair in my room, and bring it to me 
in camp. He duly arrived back about an 
hour afterwards with the coat and the 

Q2 



232 " SLAVA DAY " 

chair, which he had carried all through 
the town, and was much discomfited at 
the howls of laughter with which we all 
greeted him. I asked him what the land- 
lady had said to his removing her furniture 
like that, and he confessed that she had 
made a few remarks, but, as she spoke 
nothing but Italian and he nothing but 
Serbian, they passed lightly over his head, 
and he triumphantly carried out what he 
had taken to be my orders. He was a 
capital orderly, always cheerful and willing. 
One day he told me, in answer to sonie 
remark of mine, that as my orderly he 
would not have to fight. " Will you fight 
with us going back to Serbia, like you did 
in Albania ? " he asked. " Why, of course 
I shall, Dragoutini," I said. His face 
beamed. " Then I shall go with you and 



" SLAVA DAY " 233 

fight beside you," he declared emphati- 
cally. 

We went back to our camp in the hills 
when our three weeks were up, and to oiu* 
great joy we heard that we were to embark 
almost immediately for Salonica. 

They let us stay a day longer than was 
intended in order to celebrate the regi- 
mental " Slava day," which is a great 
festival, and the whole regiment w^as en fete 
for the whole day. The Crown Prince Alex- 
ander himself came, and a great many French 
and English officers and a few ladies. 

It was held in a beautiful big, flat glade, 
just below the camp, with huge big spread- 
ing trees. There was a large marquee 
decorated with all the different flags of 
the Allies, and everybody had been busy 
for the last week making paths and gene- 



234 " SLAVA DAY " 

rally beautifying the place, and practising 
for the big march past of the regiment. 

We had a variety of talent in our regi- 
ment ; among others a young student of 
sculpture. Building four high pillars of 
clayey mud flanking the path leading to 
the marquee, he carved on each a beautiful 
bas-relief. The first one represented a 
haggard, weary, beaten Serbian soldier 
going into exile ; the next a Serbian soldier 
re-equipped, holding his new rifle in his 
hand, his expression full of fierce determi- 
nation, standing in a striking attitude with 
his face to the foe again ; while on a third 
was the head of a woman with a look of 
patient expectancy on her beautiful face, 
representing the women who were waiting 
in Serbia for the return of their sons and 
husbands to deliver them from the bondage 



" SLAVA DAY " 235 

of the hated Austrian-Bulgarian oppressors. 
They were most striking figures, and some 
day that young Serbian soldier will become 
known as a very great sculptor. 

It was an ideal spot for a fete, and we 
hoped anxiously that the weather, which 
had looked rather threatening, would hold 
up. The whole regiment was astir very 
early, and we were all drawn up under the 
trees before the guests arrived. 

I was talking to the Colonel, when he 
suddenly asked me where my company 
was drawn up. 

"Just behind the Third," I rephed, 
pointing over in that direction. 

" Well, come over there with me, I want 
to speak to them," he said, and we went 
over, I wondering what he was going to 
say, and was more than astonished when 



236 " SLAVA DAY " 

I found the surprise in store for me. They 
all sprang to attention, and then, with me 
standing by his side, he made them a long 
speech, which all the other companies 
round could hear also, and said that he 
was promoting me to sergeant on that 
their great regimental " Slava day." 
Generally you are just promoted, and it is 
entered in the books in the ordinary way, 
and it was a very great honour to have a 
public sort of ceremony like that, especially 
on such a day. They all shouted " Jivio " 
three times for me when he had finished, 
and, though I felt extremely shy and 
embarrassed, I was very much pleased. 

All the officers in the regiment and a 
great many of the men came up and shook 
hands with me afterwards, and congratu- 
lated me, and the Commander of the 



" SLAVA DAY " 237 

battalion sent his orderly off for some 
spare stars which he had, and fixed 
my second ones on my shoulders there 
and then. 

Later on the General of the First Army, 
who was one of the guests, when he heard 
I was one of his soldiers, also added his 
congratulations ; in fact, I have never in 
my life had so much handshaking and 
patting on the back. 

Presently the Crown Prince arrived and 
the rest of the guests. The whole regi- 
ment, headed by the band and the regi- 
mental flag, marched past him and saluted, 
and to see these fine healthy-looking 
fellows, with their swinging stride, you 
would never have guessed they were the 
same men who had gone through that 
terrible retreat in the Albanian mountains 



238 " SLAVA DAY " 

and arrived at Corfu in such a deplorable 
condition two months before. 

The guests all sat down to lunch in the 
big marquee, and after that there were 
songs, dancing, etc. The Crown Prince 
had to leave early, but said he would come 
back again later on. 

I had invited two of my friends from the 
English hospital, and they enjoyed them- 
selves immensely, and we all— guests, 
officers and men — danced the " Kolo " 
and all the other Serbian national dances 
together until evening. 

Later on there was another big lunch 
and a great many speeches from the 
representatives of the English, French and 
Italian Allies. True to his promise Prince 
Alexander came back later in the afternoon, 
specially to chat with the soldiers, among 



" SLAVA DAY " 239 

whom he walked about in the friendUest 
manner, enquiring after their families, 
how they had been wounded, etc., etc. 
It was easy to see how popular he is with 
his Army, and how pleased and proud the 
men were as they crowded round him. 

We kept it up the whole day and late 
that night after all the guests had gone, 
in spite of the fact that we should have to 
be astir very early next morning, as we 
were to embark for Salonica. 

We had a very hot, dusty tramp dow^n 
to the embarking stage, and I had very 
bad luck, as I lost my dog " Mah," who 
was a most faithful little brute, though it 
would be hard to describe his breed. He 
was a stray who had attached himself to 
an officer and afterwards been handed 
over to me, and he was always at my heels, 



240 " SLAVA DAY " 

never quitting me for a moment and 
sleeping in my tent. Even when I was 
dancing the previous day he had nearly 
upset several people in his anxiety to keep 
close to me. It was only about half an 
hour before the boat sailed that I missed 
him. In the immense crowd of soldiers 
he had lost sight of me for a moment, and 
then could not trace me, and someone 
eventually told me that they had seen 
him starting back along the hot, dusty 
road to camp looking for me, and, 
as I dared not miss the boat on his 
account, I had reluctantly to give up the 
search. 

The boat w^as a fine French Trans- 
atlantic boat, but the first day out at sea 
w^as very rough, and the men, who are 
anything but good sailors, lay about 



" SLAVA DAY " 241 

prostrate, declaring that they would rather 
have ten days' continuous battle on land 
than one day on board ship. 

However, Easter Sunday was very fine, 
and we all landed next day quite fit at 
Salonica. Our camp was up on the hills 
about seventeen miles from the town. It 
was a lovely place, and had the further 
advantage of having a spring of very good 
mineral water, which was a great luxury, 
as the drinking water around Salonica is 
not good as a rule. 

The transportation of the Serbian Army 
from Corfu to Salonica was going on 
apace, and within a few weeks the whole 
force w^as safely landed without a single 
casualty. 

The men were fully equipped down to 
the very last button— new English khaki 



242 



SLAVA DAY " 



uniforms, belts, rifles, water-bottles, abso- 
lutely everything. 

I went home on a couple of months' 
leave, leaving them full of spirits, and 
eagerly looking forward to the time when 
we could get another whack at the enemy, 
and march victoriously back into Serbia ; 
and with any luck I hope some day to be 
able to describe how we accomplished it, 
and the triumphal entry into Nish which 
we are always talking about. 



Printed in England by W. H. Smith & Son. The Arden Press. 
Stamford Street London. S.E. 



J,iJI!L!ll.!l!!|||ip|ili!!l